Misdeed of the need: towards computational accounts of transition to addiction

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2017 Oct;46:142-153. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2017.08.014. Epub 2017 Sep 9.


Drug addiction is a complex behavioral and neurobiological disorder which, in an emergent brain-circuit view, reflects a loss of prefrontal top-down control over subcortical circuits governing drug-seeking and drug-taking. We first review previous computational accounts of addiction, focusing on cocaine addiction and on prevalent dopamine-based positive-reinforcement and negative-reinforcement computational models. Then, we discuss a recent computational proposal that the progression to addiction is unlikely to result from a complete withdrawal of the goal-oriented decision system in favor the habitual one. Rather, the transition to addiction would arise from a drug-induced alteration in the structure of organismal needs which reorganizes the goal structure, ultimately favoring predominance of drug-oriented goals. Finally, we outline unmet challenges for future computational research on addiction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*