Addiction circuitry in the human brain

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2012;52:321-36. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010611-134625. Epub 2011 Sep 27.


A major challenge in understanding substance-use disorders lies in uncovering why some individuals become addicted when exposed to drugs, whereas others do not. Although genetic, developmental, and environmental factors are recognized as major contributors to a person's risk of becoming addicted, the neurobiological processes that underlie this vulnerability are still poorly understood. Imaging studies suggest that individual variations in key dopamine-modulated brain circuits, including circuits involved in reward, memory, executive function, and motivation, contribute to some of the differences in addiction vulnerability. A better understanding of the main circuits affected by chronic drug use and the influence of social stressors, developmental trajectories, and genetic background on these circuits is bound to lead to a better understanding of addiction and to more effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of substance-use disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / drug effects
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Executive Function / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders


  • Dopamine