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Effects of suvorexant, a dual orexin/hypocretin receptor antagonist, on impulsive behavior associated with cocaine

Hypothalamic hypocretin (orexin) peptides mediate arousal, attention, and reward processing. Fibers containing orexins project to brain structures that govern motivated behavior, including the ventral tegmental area (VTA). A number of psychiatric conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance use disorders, are characterized by deficits in impulse control, however the relationship between orexin and impulsive behavior is incompletely characterized. The effects of systemic or centrally administered orexin receptor (OXR) antagonists on measures of impulsive-like behavior in rats were evaluated using the five-choice serial reaction time task (5-CSRTT) and delay discounting procedures. These paradigms were also used to test the capacity of OXR antagonists to attenuate acute cocaine-evoked impulsivity. Finally, immunohistochemistry and calcium imaging were used to assess potential cellular mechanisms by which OXR blockade may influence motor impulsivity. Suvorexant, a dual (OX1/2R) orexin receptor antagonist, reduced cocaine-evoked premature responses in 5-CSRTT when administered systemically or directly into VTA. Neither suvorexant nor OX1R-or OX2R-selective compounds (SB334867 or TCS-OX2-29, respectively) altered delay discounting. Finally, suvorexant did not alter Fos-immunoreactivity within tyrosine hydroxylase-immunolabeled neurons of VTA, but did attenuate cocaine-and orexin-induced increases in calcium transient amplitude within neurons of VTA. Results from the present studies suggest potential therapeutic utility of OXR antagonists in reducing psychostimulant-induced motor impulsivity. These findings also support the view that orexin transmission is closely involved in executive function in normal and pathological conditions.


Gentile, T. A., Simmons, S. J., Watson, M. N., Connelly, K. L., Brailoiu, E., Zhang, Y., & Muschamp, J. W. (2018). Effects of suvorexant, a dual orexin/hypocretin receptor antagonist, on impulsive behavior associated with cocaine. Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(5), 1001-1009. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2017.158

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