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Trends Neurosci. 2014 Apr;37(4):200-10. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2014.02.002. Epub 2014 Mar 20.

Illicit dopamine transients: reconciling actions of abused drugs.

Author information

1
School of Biological Sciences, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4120, USA.
2
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607-7137, USA.
3
School of Biological Sciences, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4120, USA. Electronic address: pagarri@ilstu.edu.

Abstract

Phasic increases in brain dopamine are required for cue-directed reward seeking. Although compelling within the framework of appetitive behavior, the view that illicit drugs hijack reward circuits by hyperactivating these dopamine transients is inconsistent with established psychostimulant pharmacology. However, recent work reclassifying amphetamine (AMPH), cocaine, and other addictive dopamine-transporter inhibitors (DAT-Is) supports transient hyperactivation as a unifying hypothesis of abused drugs. We argue here that reclassification also identifies generating burst firing by dopamine neurons as a keystone action. Unlike natural rewards, which are processed by sensory systems, drugs act directly on the brain. Consequently, to mimic natural rewards and exploit reward circuits, dopamine transients must be elicited de novo. Of available drug targets, only burst firing achieves this essential outcome.

PMID:
24656971
PMCID:
PMC4064368
DOI:
10.1016/j.tins.2014.02.002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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