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Eur J Neurosci. 2010 Jun;31(12):2308-19. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07249.x. Epub 2010 May 24.

The psychological and neurochemical mechanisms of drug memory reconsolidation: implications for the treatment of addiction.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


Memory reconsolidation is the process by which memories, destabilised at retrieval, require restabilisation to persist in the brain. It has been demonstrated that even old, well-established memories require reconsolidation following retrieval; therefore, memory reconsolidation could potentially be exploited to disrupt, or even erase, aberrant memories that underlie psychiatric disorders, thereby providing a novel therapeutic target. Drug addiction is one such disorder; it is both chronic and relapsing, and one prominent risk factor for a relapse episode is the presentation of environmental cues that have previously been associated with drugs of abuse. This 'cue-induced relapse' can be accounted for in psychological terms by reinforcing memories of the pavlovian association between the cue and the drug, which can thus influence behaviour through at least three psychologically and neurobiologically dissociable mechanisms: conditioned reinforcement, conditioned approach and conditioned motivation. As each of these psychological processes could contribute to the resumption of drug-seeking following abstinence, it is important to develop treatments that can reduce drug-seeking re-established via influences on each or all of these pavlovian processes, in order to minimise the risk of a subsequent relapse. Investigation of the memory reconsolidation mechanisms of the memories underlying conditioned reinforcement, conditioned approach and conditioned motivation indicate that they depend upon different neurochemical systems, including the glutamatergic and adrenergic systems within limbic corticostriatal circuitry. We also discuss here the subsequent translation to the clinic of this preclinical work.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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