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Front Psychiatry. 2013 May 29;4:42. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00042. eCollection 2013.

Emerging role for corticotropin releasing factor signaling in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis at the intersection of stress and reward.

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Neuroscience Program in Substance Abuse, Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt Brain Institute , Nashville, TN , USA.


Stress and anxiety play an important role in the development and maintenance of drug and alcohol addiction. The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a brain region involved in the production of long-term stress-related behaviors, plays an important role in animal models of relapse, such as reinstatement to previously extinguished drug-seeking behaviors. While a number of neurotransmitter systems have been suggested to play a role in these behaviors, recent evidence points to the neuropeptide corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) as being critically important in BNST-mediated reinstatement behaviors. Although numerous studies indicate that the BNST is a complex brain region with multiple afferent and efferent systems and a variety of cell types, there has only been limited work to determine how CRF modulates this complex neuronal system at the circuit level. Recent work from our lab and others have begun to unravel these BNST neurocircuits and explore their roles in CRF-related reinstatement behaviors. This review will examine the role of CRF signaling in drug addiction and reinstatement with an emphasis on critical neurocircuitry within the BNST that may offer new insights into treatments for addiction.


addiction; excitatory transmission; extended amygdala; reinstatement; relapse

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