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Eur J Pharmacol. 2005 Dec 5;526(1-3):199-206. Epub 2005 Oct 26.

The role of dopamine in human addiction: from reward to motivated attention.

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  • 1Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, P.O. Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands. franken@fsw.eur.nl


There is general consensus among preclinical researchers that dopamine plays an important role in the development and persistence of addiction. However, the precise role of dopamine in addictive behaviors is far from clear and only a few clinical studies on the role of dopamine in human addiction have been conducted so far. The present paper reviews studies addressing the role of dopamine in humans. There is substantial and consistent evidence that dopamine is involved in the experience of drug reward in humans. Dopamine may also be involved in motivational processes such as drug craving. However, given the inconsistent findings of studies using dopamine receptor (ant)agonists, the role of dopamine in the experience of craving is far from resolved. Recent theories claiming that dopamine signals salience and makes the brain paying attention to biological relevant stimuli may provide an interesting framework for explaining addictive behaviors. There is accumulating evidence that patients with drug and alcohol addiction have an aberrant focus on drug-related stimuli. Although there is some preliminary support for the role of dopamine in these attention processes, more studies have to be carried out in order to test the validity of these theories in human subjects.

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