Background: Following the first association between the dopamine D2 receptor gene polymorphism and severe alcoholism, there has been an explosion of research reports in the psychiatric and behavioral addiction literature and neurogenetics. With this increased knowledge, the field has been rife with controversy. Moreover, with the advent of Whole Genome-Wide Studies (GWAS) and Whole Exome Sequencing (WES), along with Functional Genome Convergence, the multiple-candidate gene approach still has merit and is considered by many as the most prudent approach. However, it is the combination of these two approaches that will ultimately define real, genetic allelic relationships, in terms of both risk and etiology. Since 1996, our laboratory has coined the umbrella term Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) to explain the common neurochemical and genetic mechanisms involved with both substance and non-substance, addictive behaviors.
Methods: This is a selective review of peer-reviewed papers primary listed in Pubmed and Medline.
Results: A review of the available evidence indicates the importance of dopaminergic pathways and resting-state, functional connectivity of brain reward circuits.
Discussion: Importantly, the proposal is that the real phenotype is RDS and impairments in the brain's reward cascade, either genetically or environmentally (epigenetically) induced, influence both substance and non-substance, addictive behaviors. Understanding shared common mechanisms will ultimately lead to better diagnosis, treatment and prevention of relapse. While, at this juncture, we cannot as yet state that we have "hatched the behavioral addiction egg", we are beginning to ask the correct questions and through an intense global effort will hopefully find a way of "redeeming joy" and permitting homo sapiens live a life, free of addiction and pain.
Keywords: Reward Deficiency Syndrome; dopamine agonist therapy; dopaminergic; epigenetics; neurogenetics.