A Place for the Hippocampus in the Cocaine Addiction Circuit: Potential Roles for Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Jul;66:15-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.03.030. Epub 2016 Apr 23.


Cocaine addiction is a chronic brain disease in which the drug seeking habits and profound cognitive, emotional and motivational alterations emerge from drug-induced neuroadaptations on a vulnerable brain. Therefore, a 'cocaine addiction brain circuit' has been described to explain this disorder. Studies in both cocaine patients and rodents reveal the hippocampus as a main node in the cocaine addiction circuit. The contribution of the hippocampus to cocaine craving and the associated memories is essential to understand the chronic relapsing nature of addiction, which is the main obstacle for the recovery. Interestingly, the hippocampus holds a particular form of plasticity that is rare in the adult brain: the ability to generate new functional neurons. There is an active scientific debate on the contributions of these new neurons to the addicted brain. This review focuses on the potential role(s) of adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) in cocaine addiction. Although the current evidence primarily originates from animal research, these preclinical studies support AHN as a relevant component for the hippocampal effects of cocaine.

Keywords: Brain functional networks; Cocaine addiction vulnerability; Cognition; Conditioned place preference; Emotion; Habits; Hippocampal plasticity; Magnetic resonance imaging; Self-administration; Therapeutic approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cocaine
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders*
  • Hippocampus*
  • Humans
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neurons


  • Cocaine