Orexin receptor antagonists reverse aberrant dopamine neuron activity and related behaviors in a rodent model of stress-induced psychosis

Hannah B. Elam, Stephanie M. Perez, Jennifer J. Donegan, Daniel J. Lodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a prevalent condition affecting approximately 8% of the United States population and 20% of United States combat veterans. In addition to core symptoms of the disorder, up to 64% of individuals diagnosed with PTSD experience comorbid psychosis. Previous research has demonstrated a positive correlation between symptoms of psychosis and increases in dopamine transmission. We have recently demonstrated projections from the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) can regulate dopamine neuron activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Specifically, inactivation of the PVT leads to a reversal of aberrant dopamine system function and psychosis-like behavior. The PVT receives dense innervation from orexin containing neurons, therefore, targeting orexin receptors may be a novel approach to restore dopamine neuron activity and alleviate PTSD-associated psychosis. In this study, we induced stress-related pathophysiology in male Sprague Dawley rats using an inescapable foot-shock procedure. We observed a significant increase in VTA dopamine neuron population activity, deficits in sensorimotor gating, and hyperresponsivity to psychomotor stimulants. Administration of selective orexin 1 receptor (OX1R) and orexin 2 receptor (OX2R) antagonists (SB334867 and EMPA, respectively) or the FDA-approved, dual-orexin receptor antagonist, Suvorexant, were found to reverse stress-induced increases in dopamine neuron population activity. However, only Suvorexant and SB334867 were able to reverse deficits in behavioral corelates of psychosis. These results suggest that the orexin system may be a novel pharmacological target for the treatment of comorbid psychosis related to PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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