The ins and outs of the striatum: role in drug addiction

Neuroscience. 2015 Aug 20:301:529-41. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.06.033. Epub 2015 Jun 23.


Addiction is a chronic relapsing disorder characterized by the loss of control over drug intake, high motivation to obtain the drug, and a persistent craving for the drug. Accumulating evidence implicates cellular and molecular alterations within cortico-basal ganglia-thalamic circuitry in the development and persistence of this disease. The striatum is a heterogeneous structure that sits at the interface of this circuit, receiving input from a variety of brain regions (e.g., prefrontal cortex, ventral tegmental area) to guide behavioral output, including motor planning, decision-making, motivation and reward. However, the vast interconnectivity of this circuit has made it difficult to isolate how individual projections and cellular subtypes within this circuit modulate each of the facets of addiction. Here, we review the use of new technologies, including optogenetics and DREADDs (Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs), in unraveling the role of the striatum in addiction. In particular, we focus on the role of striatal cell populations (i.e., direct and indirect pathway medium spiny neurons) and striatal dopaminergic and glutamatergic afferents in addiction-related plasticity and behaviors.

Keywords: DREADDs; addiction; basal ganglia; cortex; optogenetics; striatum.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / pathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology*


  • Glutamic Acid
  • Dopamine