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Science. 2004 Dec 10;306(5703):1944-7.

Addiction as a computational process gone awry.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, 6-145 Jackson Hall, 321 Church Street SE, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Addictive drugs have been hypothesized to access the same neurophysiological mechanisms as natural learning systems. These natural learning systems can be modeled through temporal-difference reinforcement learning (TDRL), which requires a reward-error signal that has been hypothesized to be carried by dopamine. TDRL learns to predict reward by driving that reward-error signal to zero. By adding a noncompensable drug-induced dopamine increase to a TDRL model, a computational model of addiction is constructed that over-selects actions leading to drug receipt. The model provides an explanation for important aspects of the addiction literature and provides a theoretic view-point with which to address other aspects.

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