The Emergence of a Circuit Model for Addiction

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2016 Jul 8:39:257-76. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-070815-013920. Epub 2016 Apr 21.


Addiction is a disease of altered behavior. Addicts use drugs compulsively and will continue to do so despite negative consequences. Even after prolonged periods of abstinence, addicts are at risk of relapse, particularly when cues evoke memories that are associated with drug use. Rodent models mimic many of the core components of addiction, from the initial drug reinforcement to cue-associated relapse and continued drug intake despite negative consequences. Rodent models have also enabled unprecedented mechanistic insight into addiction, revealing plasticity of glutamatergic synaptic transmission evoked by the strong activation of mesolimbic dopamine-a defining feature of all addictive drugs-as a neural substrate for these drug-adaptive behaviors. Cell type-specific optogenetic manipulations have allowed both identification of the relevant circuits and design of protocols to reverse drug-evoked plasticity and to establish links of causality with drug-adaptive behaviors. The emergence of a circuit model for addiction will open the door for novel therapies, such as deep brain stimulation.

Keywords: calcium-permeable AMPA receptors; cocaine; deep brain stimulation; metabotropic glutamate receptors; optogenetics; synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Dopamine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects


  • Dopamine