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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2007 Sep;90 Suppl 1:S85-91. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

Behavioral and neuroeconomics of drug addiction: competing neural systems and temporal discounting processes.

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  • 1University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, Departments of Psychiatry and Radiology, Center for Addiction Research, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


We review behavioral- and neuroeconomic research that identifies temporal discounting as an important component in the development and maintenance of drug addiction. First, we review behavioral economic research that explains and documents the contribution of temporal discounting to addiction. This is followed with recent insights from neuroeconomics that may provide an explanation of why drug-dependent individuals discount the future. Specifically, neuroeconomics has identified two competing neural systems that are related to temporal discounting using brain-imaging techniques that examine the relative activation of different brain regions for temporal discounting. According to the competing neural systems account, choices for delayed outcomes are related to the prefrontal cortex (i.e., the "executive system") and choices for immediate outcomes are related to the limbic brain regions (i.e., the "impulsive system"). Temporal discounting provides a useful framework for future imaging research, and suggests a novel approach to designing effective drug dependence prevention and treatment programs.

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