The development of analgesic, pro- and anti-convulsant opiate effects in the rat

H. Van Praag, M. Falcon, D. Guendelman, H. Frenk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Evidence indicates that the neonate is capable, if not perceiving nociception, then at least reacting to nociceptive stimuli. These responses can be inhibited by opiates such as morphine. The analgesic potency of morphine in rat pups increases with maturation, due to (a) the proliferation of opiate receptors and (b), the maturation of supraspinal descending inhibition which becomes functional at 3 weeks post-natally. Tolerance to repeated injections of morphine in pups is less pronounced than in adults since it is masked by several processes, it has been demonstrated to occur within the first two weeks of life. Toxic effects of morphine in the neonate, as can be demonstrated both in behavior and EEG, differ from those in adults. Thus, convulsions induced by morphine which have been reported to occur in adults, were absent in pups. Excitatory effects of morphine in behavior develop in 3 different stages. During the first week morphine caused behavioral activation which is not mediated by specific opiate receptors. In the second week morphine produces EEG spikes in a dose-dependent fashion, but at this age these spikes were not reversible by opiate antagonists. Opiate specific EEG spikes and other opiate specific excitatory effects start to predominate during the third week of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-429
Number of pages11
JournalAnnali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanita
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1993


  • analgesia
  • convulsant effects
  • development
  • opiates
  • pups


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