This Editorial presents the position that translational research continues to play a vital role in the field of alcohol addiction research. Using diverse animal models that mimic fundamental features of the disease, tremendous progress has been made in our understanding of alcohol actions in the brain and in identifying key neurobiological adaptations that may contribute to the pathophysiology of alcohol addiction. Current translational research in this field is now focusing on identifying the causal mechanisms that drive the shift from recreational to abusive ethanol drinking behaviors. The relatively recent development and application of optogenetic and chemogenetic techniques is beginning to afford alcohol researchers with the opportunity to identify specific neuronal circuits that govern key elements of the addiction process. These advances are rapidly pointing the way toward novel neural targets for the development of more effective treatments for addictive disorders.
Keywords: Alcohol addiction; Appetitive and consummatory behaviors; Dopamine (DA); Insula; Medial prefrontal cortex; Nucleus accumbens; Optogenetics; Phasic and tonic release; Translational research; Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA).