Reward-seeking behavior and addiction: cause or cog?

Oscar Arias-Carrión, Mohamed Salama
Current Drug Abuse Reviews 2012, 5 (3): 178-89
Although dopaminergic system represents the cornerstone in rewarding, other neurotransmitters can modulate both the reward system and the psychomotor effects of addictive drugs. Many hypotheses have been proposed for a better understanding of the reward system and its role in drug addiction. However, after many years of investigation, no single theory can completely explain the neural basis of drug addiction. Recent reports introduce novel neurotransmitters into the game e.g. dynorphins, orexins, histamine, gheralin and galanin. The interacting functions of these neurotransmitters have shown that the reward system and its role in drug dependence, is far more complicated than was thought before. Individual variations exist regarding response to drug exposure, vulnerability for addiction and the effects of different cues on reward systems. Consequently, genetic variations of neurotransmission are thought to influence reward processing that in turn may affect distinctive social behavior and susceptibility to addiction. However, the individual variations can not be based mainly on genetics; environmental factors seem to play a role too. Here we discuss the current knowledge about the orquestic regulation of different neurotransmitters on reward-seeking behavior and their potential effect on drug addiction.

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