Endogenous Opioids, Opioid Receptors, and Incentive Processes

  • Mauricio R. Papini
  • Leonardo A. Ortega


Opioid receptors and endogenous opioid peptides play a role in a wide variety of behavioral and physiological processes. Four types of opioid receptors have been identified: mu (MOR), delta (DOR), kappa (KOP), and opioid-receptor-like receptor (ORL-1). A variety of endogenous opioids have been identified, including β-endorphin, met-enkephalin, dynorphins, and nociceptin, among others. Whereas endogenous opioids are relatively nonselective, several receptor-selective compounds are available for research purposes (e.g., DAMGO, DPDPE, and U50,488H selectively agonize MOR, DOR, and KOR, respectively). This has permitted researchers to identify the role played by specific opioid receptors in incentive processes. A brief overview of opioid receptors and neuropeptides is followed by a review of recent research on their role in modulating absolute and relative incentive value. Incentive value refers to the hedonic dimension of stimuli such as food and fluids, i.e., to their appetitive or aversive value. Opioid release is involved in two major functions related to incentive value. First, they influence food palatability and so-called liking orofacial responses. Second, they are implicated in the behavioral adjustment to situations involving unexpected incentive devaluations. Opioid function in these situations is surprisingly selective. Thus, for example, different opioid receptors affect behavior at different points in the process of adjustment to reward devaluation.


Nucleus Accumbens Opioid Receptor Opioid Peptide Opioid System Endogenous Opioid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Consummatory extinction


Central nervous system


Consummatory successive negative contrast


Delta opioid receptor


Escape from frustration


Instrumental extinction (operant lever pressing)


Instrumental successive negative contrast


Kappa opioid receptor


Mu opioid receptor


Opioid-receptor-like receptor


Pavlovian extinction (autoshaped lever pressing)



Preparation of this article was partially supported grants from the TCU Research and Creative Activities fund and the TCU Science and Engineering Research Center. The authors thank Jacob Norris for valuable comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTexas Christian UniversityFort WorthUSA

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