Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disorder which consists of compulsive patterns of drug-seeking and taking that occurs at the expense of other activities. The transition from casual to compulsive drug use and the enduring propensity to relapse is thought to be underpinned by long-lasting neuroadaptations in specific brain circuitry, analogous to those that underlie long-term memory formation. Research spanning the last two decades has made great progress in identifying cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to drug-induced changes in plasticity and behavior. Alterations in synaptic transmission within the mesocorticolimbic and corticostriatal pathways, and changes in the transcriptional potential of cells by epigenetic mechanisms are two important means by which drugs of abuse can induce lasting changes in behavior. In this review we provide a summary of more recent research that has furthered our understanding of drug-induced neuroplastic changes both at the level of the synapse, and on a transcriptional level, and how these changes may relate to the human disease of addiction.
Keywords: addiction, plasticity, CREB, deltaFosB, epigenetics, histone modification, DNA methylation, microRNAs
Citation: Madsen HB, Brown RM and Lawrence AJ (2012) Neuroplasticity in addiction: cellular and transcriptional perspectives. Front. Mol. Neurosci. 5:99. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2012.00099
Received: 08 May 2012; Paper pending published: 21 May 2012;
Accepted: 20 October 2012; Published online: 12 November 2012.
Edited by:Ildikó Rácz, University of Bonn, Germany
Reviewed by:Timothy Bredy, The University of Queensland, Australia
Copyright © 2012 Madsen, Brown and Lawrence. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
*Correspondence: Robyn M. Brown, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
†These authors equally contributed to this work.