Dopamine (DA) regulates emotional and motivational behavior through the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway. Changes in DA mesolimbic neurotransmission have been found to modify behavioral responses to various environmental stimuli associated with reward behaviors. Psychostimulants, drugs of abuse, and natural reward such as food can cause substantial synaptic modifications to the mesolimbic DA system. Recent studies using optogenetics and DREADDs, together with neuron-specific or circuit-specific genetic manipulations have improved our understanding of DA signaling in the reward circuit, and provided a means to identify the neural substrates of complex behaviors such as drug addiction and eating disorders. This review focuses on the role of the DA system in drug addiction and food motivation, with an overview of the role of D1 and D2 receptors in the control of reward-associated behaviors.
Keywords: dopamine; dopamine receptor; drug addiction; food reward; reward circuit.