The drive to eat: comparisons and distinctions between mechanisms of food reward and drug addiction

Nat Neurosci. 2012 Oct;15(10):1330-5. doi: 10.1038/nn.3202. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


The growing rates of obesity have prompted comparisons between the uncontrolled intake of food and drugs; however, an evaluation of the equivalence of food- and drug-related behaviors requires a thorough understanding of the underlying neural circuits driving each behavior. Although it has been attractive to borrow neurobiological concepts from addiction to explore compulsive food seeking, a more integrated model is needed to understand how food and drugs differ in their ability to drive behavior. In this Review, we will examine the commonalities and differences in the systems-level and behavioral responses to food and to drugs of abuse, with the goal of identifying areas of research that would address gaps in our understanding and ultimately identify new treatments for obesity or drug addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Drive*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Food
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuropeptides / physiology
  • Reward*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Neuropeptides