Progress has been made over the last 10 years in determining the neural mechanisms of sensitization induced by amphetamine-like psychostimulants, opioids and stressors. Changes in dopamine transmission in axon terminal fields such as the nucleus accumbens appear to underlie the expression of sensitization, but the actions of drugs and stressors in the somatodendritic regions of the A10/A9 dopamine neurons seem critical for the initiation of sensitization. Manipulations that increase somatodendritic dopamine release and permit the stimulation of D1 dopamine receptors in this region induce changes in the dopamine system that lead to the development of long-term sensitization. However, it is not known exactly how the changes in the A10/A9 region are encoded to permit augmented dopamine transmission in the terminal field. One possibility is that the dopamine neurons of sensitized animals have become increasingly sensitive to excitatory pharmacological and environmental stimuli or desensitized to inhibitory regulation. Alternatively, changes in cellular activity or protein synthesis may result in a change in the presynaptic regulation of axon terminal dopamine release.