Neuronal mechanisms mediating pathological reward-related behaviors: A focus on silent synapses in the nucleus accumbens

Pharmacol Res. 2018 Oct:136:90-96. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2018.08.025. Epub 2018 Aug 29.


The compulsive drive to seek drugs despite negative consequences relies heavily on drug-induced alterations that occur within the reward neurocircuit. These alterations include changes in neuromodulator and neurotransmitter systems that ultimately lock behaviors into an inflexible and permanent state. To provide clinicians with improved treatment options, researchers are trying to identify, as potential targets of therapeutic intervention, the neural mechanisms mediating an "addictive-like state". Here, we discuss how drug-induced generation of silent synapses in the nucleus accumbens may be a potential therapeutic target capable of reversing drug-related behaviors.

Keywords: Cocaine; Drug seeking; Morphine; Nucleus accumbens; Silent synapse; Substance abuse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cocaine / pharmacology
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / physiology
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Morphine
  • Cocaine