Addictive drugs and brain stimulation reward

Annu Rev Neurosci. 1996:19:319-40. doi: 10.1146/


Direct electrical or chemical stimulation of specific brain regions can establish response habits similar to those established by natural rewards such as food or sexual contact. Cocaine, mu and delta opiates, nicotine, phencyclidine, and cannabis each have actions that summate with rewarding electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle (MFB). The reward-potentiating effects of amphetamine and opiates are associated with central sites of action where these drugs also have their direct rewarding effects, suggesting common mechanisms for drug reward per se and for drug potentiation of brain stimulation reward. The central sites at which these and perhaps other drugs of abuse potentiate brain stimulation reward and are rewarding in their own right are consistent with the hypothesis that the laboratory reward of brain stimulation and the pharmacological rewards of addictive drugs are habit forming because they act in the brain circuits that subserve more natural and biologically significant rewards.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Humans
  • Narcotics / pharmacology*
  • Nicotine / pharmacology
  • Phencyclidine / pharmacology
  • Reward*
  • Self Stimulation
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology


  • Cannabinoids
  • Narcotics
  • Nicotine
  • Phencyclidine