Human genetic and epidemiological studies provide evidence that only a subset of individuals who experiment with potentially addictive drugs become addicts. What renders some individuals susceptible to addiction remains to be determined, but most would agree that there is no single trait underlying the disorder. However, there is evidence in humans that addiction liability has a genetic component, and that certain personality characteristics related to temperament (e.g. the sensation-seeking trait) are associated with individual differences in addiction liability. Consequently, we have used a selective breeding strategy based on locomotor response to a novel environment to generate two lines of rats with distinct behavioral characteristics. We have found that the resulting phenotypes differ on a number of neurobehavioral dimensions relevant to addiction. Relative to bred low-responder (bLR) rats, bred high-responder (bHR) rats exhibit increased exploratory behavior, are more impulsive, more aggressive, seek stimuli associated with rewards, and show a greater tendency to relapse. We therefore utilize this unique animal model to parse the genetic, neural and environmental factors that contribute to addiction liability. Our work shows that the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), dopaminergic molecules, and members of the fibroblast growth factor family are among the neurotransmitters and neuromodulators that play a role in both the initial susceptibility to addiction as well as the altered neural responses that follow chronic drug exposure. Moreover, our findings suggest that the hippocampus plays a major role in mediating vulnerability to addiction. It is hoped that this work will emphasize the importance of personalized treatment strategies and identify novel therapeutic targets for humans suffering from addictive disorders. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'NIDA 40th Anniversary Issue'.
Keywords: Addiction; Cocaine; Dopamine; Fibroblast growth factor (FGF); High-responder; Low-responder; Novelty-seeking; Selectively bred.
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