The reinstatement model of drug relapse: recent neurobiological findings, emerging research topics, and translational research

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Oct;229(3):453-76. doi: 10.1007/s00213-013-3120-y. Epub 2013 May 18.


Background and rationale: Results from many clinical studies suggest that drug relapse and craving are often provoked by acute exposure to the self-administered drug or related drugs, drug-associated cues or contexts, or certain stressors. During the last two decades, this clinical scenario has been studied in laboratory animals by using the reinstatement model. In this model, reinstatement of drug seeking by drug priming, drug cues or contexts, or certain stressors is assessed following drug self-administration training and subsequent extinction of the drug-reinforced responding.

Objective: In this review, we first summarize recent (2009-present) neurobiological findings from studies using the reinstatement model. We then discuss emerging research topics, including the impact of interfering with putative reconsolidation processes on cue- and context-induced reinstatement of drug seeking, and similarities and differences in mechanisms of reinstatement across drug classes. We conclude by discussing results from recent human studies that were inspired by results from rat studies using the reinstatement model.

Conclusions: Main conclusions from the studies reviewed highlight: (1) the ventral subiculum and lateral hypothalamus as emerging brain areas important for reinstatement of drug seeking, (2) the existence of differences in brain mechanisms controlling reinstatement of drug seeking across drug classes, (3) the utility of the reinstatement model for assessing the effect of reconsolidation-related manipulations on cue-induced drug seeking, and (4) the encouraging pharmacological concordance between results from rat studies using the reinstatement model and human laboratory studies on cue- and stress-induced drug craving.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive* / metabolism
  • Behavior, Addictive* / prevention & control
  • Behavior, Addictive* / psychology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cues
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior*
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Neurobiology*
  • Recurrence
  • Self Administration
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*