Exposure to addictive drugs causes changes in synaptic function within the striatal complex, which can either mimic or interfere with the induction of synaptic plasticity. These synaptic adaptations include changes in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a ventral striatal subregion important for drug reward and reinforcement, as well as the dorsal striatum, which may promote habitual drug use. As the behavioral effects of drugs of abuse are long-lasting, identifying persistent changes in striatal circuits induced by in vivo drug experience is of considerable importance. Within the striatum, drugs of abuse have been shown to induce modifications in dendritic morphology, ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluR) and the induction of synaptic plasticity. Understanding the detailed molecular mechanisms underlying these changes in striatal circuit function will provide insight into how drugs of abuse usurp normal learning mechanisms to produce pathological behavior.
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