Molecular mechanisms of psychostimulant-induced structural plasticity

Pharmacopsychiatry. 2009 May;42 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S69-78. doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1202847. Epub 2009 May 11.


Drug addiction is characterized by persistent behavioral and cellular plasticity throughout the brain's reward regions. Among the many neuroadaptations that occur following repeated drug administration are alterations in cell morphology including changes in dendritic spines. While this phenomenon has been well documented, the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, within the context of drug abuse, we review and integrate several of the established pathways known to regulate synaptic remodeling, and discuss the contributions of neurotrophic and dopamine signaling in mediating this structural plasticity. Finally, we discuss how such upstream mechanisms could regulate actin dynamics, the common endpoint involved in structural remodeling in neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / physiology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Microfilament Proteins / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Reward


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Dopamine