The dopamine-containing neuron: maestro
or simple musician in the orchestra of addiction?

Bonci A, Bernardi G, Grillner P, Mercuri NB.
Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center and Department of Neurology,
University of California, 94110, San Francisco, CA, USA
Trends Pharmacol Sci 2003 Apr;24(4):172-7


Dopamine-containing neurons originating in the ventral tegmental area project primarily to the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex, forming the mesolimbic and mesocortical systems, respectively. Virtually every drug of abuse influences dopamine-mediated neurotransmission by affecting directly or indirectly the activity of these cells. Amphetamine and cocaine, in addition to opioids and nicotine, induce short- and long-term modifications of firing in the dopamine-containing neurons of the ventral mesencephalon. Although exposure to psychostimulants mainly depresses neuronal activity, nicotine and morphine enhance neuronal activity. However, under particular conditions, these drugs could cause different changes of firing. In this article, we propose that changes in the activity of dopamine-containing neurons are related to the processes of addiction. Therefore, we suggest that both the modulation of dopamine release in the extracellular space and transient or enduring changes in the firing of dopamine-containing neurons could be associated with important features of drugs of abuse.

DAT inhibitors
Cocaine substitutes
The pleasure centres
The nucleus accumbens
Dopamine/D2 receptors
Dopamine/D3 receptors
Dopamine/D4 receptors
Dopamine efflux and abused drugs
Subsecond dopamine release promotes cocaine seeking

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