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Neural Circuits of Addiction and Experimental Studies

Creative Biolabs shares and discusses the scientific research progress of some experts and teams in the field of neuroscience around addiction neural circuits, so as to explore the research on addiction mechanisms.

Same and Specific Genetic Risk Factors for Substance Addiction

Different substance addictions all significantly affect the brain's reward circuitry, producing similar damage to neurotransmitter systems and functional brain structures. However, no two addictive substances are exactly the same in terms of the harm they cause to the organism. However, little is known about the genetic factors that are shared and specific between different substance addictions.

  • One study identified four key risk genes that share significant associations with nicotine, alcohol and drug addiction, focusing on molecular pathways related to cell signaling.
  • As well as the discovery of some new key loci associated with multiple drug addiction, such as the ANKS1B locus.

Lateral Hypothalamus (LH) Neural Circuits Involved in Drug Addiction

The LH is critical for brain physiologic function and plays an important role in drug addiction. However, the neural circuits involved in drug addiction by LH remain unclear.

A research team has investigated the neural loop of LH involved in addiction memory extraction using techniques such as neural loop tracing and intervention on an animal model of scene extraction of addiction memory, and the results showed that:

  • LH glutamatergic neurons are involved in scene extraction of withdrawal memories.
  • Projections from the nucleus ambiguus core region (NAcC) to D1 receptor spiny neurons (D1-MSNs) in the LH are an important upstream circuit for activating LH glutamatergic neurons.
  • D1-MSNs activate LH glutamatergic neurons by disinhibiting LH glutamatergic neurons from local GABAergic neurons in the LH.

Experimental Studies: Illuminating the Mechanisms of Addiction

Experimental studies have been pivotal in uncovering the intricate details of the neural circuits underlying addiction. Techniques such as neuroimaging (fMRI, PET scans), optogenetics, and animal models have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of these circuits.

  • Animal Models and Optogenetics
    Researchers often use animal models to simulate addictive behaviors and study the neural pathways involved. Optogenetics, a cutting-edge technique, enables researchers to control specific neurons using light. By activating or inhibiting neurons in animal models, scientists can directly observe how different neural pathways contribute to addictive behaviors.
  • Neuroimaging Techniques
    Neuroimaging techniques allow researchers to visualize brain activity in humans.

The study of neural circuits of addiction and experimental research has illuminated the intricate interplay of brain regions, neurotransmitters, and pathways involved in addictive behaviors. Understanding these circuits at a deeper level offers insights into the mechanisms driving addiction, providing potential targets for therapeutic interventions aimed at disrupting the cycle of compulsive substance use and behavior.


  1. Koob G F. Dynamics of neuronal circuits in addiction: reward, antireward, and emotional memory. Pharmacopsychiatry, 2009, 42(S 01): S32-S41.
  2. Saunders B T, et al. Contemporary approaches to neural circuit manipulation and mapping: focus on reward and addiction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2015, 370(1677): 20140210.

For Research Use Only. Not For Clinical Use.