Molecular basis of long-term plasticity underlying addiction

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2001 Feb;2(2):119-28. doi: 10.1038/35053570.


Studies of human addicts and behavioural studies in rodent models of addiction indicate that key behavioural abnormalities associated with addiction are extremely long lived. So, chronic drug exposure causes stable changes in the brain at the molecular and cellular levels that underlie these behavioural abnormalities. There has been considerable progress in identifying the mechanisms that contribute to long-lived neural and behavioural plasticity related to addiction, including drug-induced changes in gene transcription, in RNA and protein processing, and in synaptic structure. Although the specific changes identified so far are not sufficiently long lasting to account for the nearly permanent changes in behaviour associated with addiction, recent work has pointed to the types of mechanism that could be involved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Behavior, Addictive / metabolism*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / pharmacology
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos*
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional / drug effects
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional / physiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • FOSB protein, human
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Cyclic AMP