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Mol Neurobiol. 1998 Jun;16(3):221-67.

Drugs of abuse and immediate-early genes in the forebrain.

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Department of Anatomy, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


A diverse array of chemical agents have been self administered by humans to alter the psychological state. Such drugs of abuse include both stimulants and depressants of the central nervous system. However, some commonalties must underlie the neurobiological actions of these drugs, since the desire to take the drugs often crosses from one drug to another. Studies have emphasized a role of the ventral striatum, especially the nucleus accumbens, in the actions of all drugs of abuse, although more recent studies have implicated larger regions of the forebrain. Induction of immediate-early genes has been studied extensively as a marker for activation of neurons in the central nervous system. In this review, we survey the literature reporting activation of immediate-early gene expression in the forebrain, in response to administration of drugs of abuse. All drugs of abuse activate immediate-early gene expression in the striatum, although each drug induces a particular neuroanatomical signature of activation. Most drugs of abuse activate immediate-early gene expression in several additional forebrain regions, including portions of the extended amygdala, cerebral cortex, lateral septum, and midline/intralaminar thalamic nuclei, although regional variations are found depending on the particular drug administered. Common neuropharmacological mechanisms responsible for activation of immediate-early gene expression in the forebrain involve dopaminergic and glutamatergic systems. Speculations on the biological significance and clinical relevance of immediate-early gene expression in response to drugs of abuse are presented.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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