Stress-induced relapse to drug seeking in the rat: role of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and amygdala

Stress. 2001 Dec;4(4):289-303. doi: 10.3109/10253890109014753.


There is growing interest in the role that the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), components of the extended amygdala, play in drug addiction. Within the BNST and CeA, there is an extensive system of intrinsic, primarily GABAergic, interconnections known to synthesize a variety of neuropeptides, including corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF). The actions of CRF at extrahypothalamic sites,including the BNST and CeA, have been implicated in stress responses and in the aversive effects of withdrawal from drugs of abuse. Most recently, we have shown a critical role for extrahypothalamic CRF in stress-induced reinstatement of drug seeking in rats. In attempting to determine which brain circuitry mediates the effect of stress on relapse and, more specifically, where in the brain CRF acts to initiate the behaviours involved in relapse, we focused on the BNST and CeA. In the present paper, we summarize studies we have conducted that explore the role of these brain sites in stress-induced relapse to heroin and cocaine seeking, and then consider how our findings can be understood within the more general context of what is known about the role of the BNST and CeA in stress-related and general approach behaviours, such as drug seeking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Amygdala / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive*
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / metabolism
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Heroin Dependence / metabolism
  • Heroin Dependence / physiopathology
  • Heroin Dependence / psychology*
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Recurrence
  • Septal Nuclei / metabolism*
  • Septal Nuclei / physiopathology
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology


  • Neuropeptides