GABA A receptor subtype involvement in addictive behaviour

Genes Brain Behav. 2017 Jan;16(1):149-184. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12321. Epub 2016 Sep 20.


GABAA receptors form the major class of inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors in the mammalian brain. This review sets out to summarize the evidence that variations in genes encoding GABAA receptor isoforms are associated with aspects of addictive behaviour in humans, while animal models of addictive behaviour also implicate certain subtypes of GABAA receptor. In addition to outlining the evidence for the involvement of specific subtypes in addiction, we summarize the particular contributions of these isoforms in control over the functioning of brain circuits, especially the mesolimbic system, and make a first attempt to bring together evidence from several fields to understanding potential involvement of GABAA receptor subtypes in addictive behaviour. While the weight of the published literature is on alcohol dependency, the underlying principles outlined are relevant across a number of different aspects of addictive behaviour.

Keywords: Alcohol; animal model; benzodiazepine; conduct disorder; electrophysiology; gene association; gene knockout; impulsivity; nucleus accumbens; psychostimulant; reward.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / genetics
  • Alcoholism / metabolism*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics
  • Behavior, Addictive / metabolism*
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / metabolism
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*


  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, GABA-A