Drug addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive, out-of-control drug use and the appearance of negative somatic and emotional consequences when drug access is prevented. The limited efficacy of treatment urges researchers toward a deeper understanding of the neural mechanism of drug addiction. Brain circuits that regulate reward and motivation are considered to be the neural substrate of drug addiction. An increasing body of literature indicates that the paraventricular thalamic nucleus (PVT) could serve as a key node in the neurocircuits that control goal-directed behaviors. In this review, we summarize the anatomical and functional evidence that the PVT regulates drug-related behaviors. The PVT receives extensive inputs from the brainstem and hypothalamus, and is reciprocally connected with the limbic system. Neurons in the PVT are recruited by drug exposure as well as cues and context associated with drug taking. Pathway-specific perturbation studies have begun to decipher the precise role of PVT circuits in drug-related behaviors. We also highlight recent findings about the involvement of neural plasticity of the PVT pathways in drug addiction and provide perspectives on future studies.
Keywords: Drug addiction; Neural circuits; Neuromodulation; Synaptic plasticity; The paraventricular thalamic nucleus.
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