Review ARTICLE

Front. Psychiatry, 06 July 2011 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00037

Disruption of maternal parenting circuitry by addictive process: rewiring of reward and stress systems

  • 1 Yale Child Study Center, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
  • 2 Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  • 3 Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Addiction represents a complex interaction between the reward and stress neural circuits, with increasing drug use reflecting a shift from positive reinforcement to negative reinforcement mechanisms in sustaining drug dependence. Preclinical studies have indicated the involvement of regions within the extended amygdala as subserving this transition, especially under stressful conditions. In the addictive situation, the reward system serves to maintain habitual behaviors that are associated with the relief of negative affect, at the cost of attenuating the salience of other rewards. Therefore, addiction reflects the dysregulation between core reward systems, including the prefrontal cortex (PFC), ventral tegmental area (VTA), and nucleus accumbens (NAc), as well as the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and extended amygdala of the stress system. Here, we consider the consequences of changes in neural function during or following addiction on parenting, an inherently rewarding process that may be disrupted by addiction. Specifically, we outline the preclinical and human studies that support the dysregulation of reward and stress systems by addiction and the contribution of these systems to parenting. Increasing evidence suggests an important role for the hypothalamus, PFC, VTA, and NAc in parenting, with these same regions being those dysregulated in addiction. Moreover, in addicted adults, we propose that parenting cues trigger stress reactivity rather than reward salience, and this may heighten negative affect states, eliciting both addictive behaviors and the potential for child neglect and abuse.

Keywords: addiction, reward, stress, parenting, preclinical, human

Citation: Rutherford HJV, Williams SK, Moy S, Mayes LC and Johns JM (2011) Disruption of maternal parenting circuitry by addictive process: rewiring of reward and stress systems. Front. Psychiatry 2:37. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00037

Received: 22 February 2011; Paper pending published: 06 April 2011;
Accepted: 09 June 2011; Published online: 06 July 2011.

Edited by:

Rina Eiden, University at Buffalo, USA

Reviewed by:

Sue Carter, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA
Kelly Lambert, Randolph-Macon College, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Rutherford, Williams, Moy, Mayes and Johns. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Helena J. V. Rutherford, Yale Child Study Center, Yale University, 230 South Frontage Road, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. e-mail: helena.rutherford@yale.edu; Sarah K. Williams, Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 436 Taylor Hall, CB # 7096, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA. e-mail: sarahk_williams@med.unc.edu

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