Systems Analysis

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Science  24 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5572, pp. 1367
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5572.1367c

Drugs of abuse, unfortunately, continue to present a scientific challenge in defining their sites and mechanisms of action and in understanding the behavioral consequences. White introduces a set of six reviews aimed at bringing together the prospectors for molecular definition (primarily though not exclusively focused on dopamine and the dopaminergic pathways subserving reward) and the explorers of animal models used for the in vivo investigation of psychomotor stimulants (cocaine), opiates (heroin), and cannabinoids. In their review of the large body of work on cocaine, Everitt and Wolf point to experimental results illuminating the parallels between the acquisition and reinforcement of drug-induced behaviors and various forms of learning. Taken together, these results suggest that drugs of abuse operate not only by augmenting endogenous neural reward systems that normally contribute to learning but also by blocking the influence of inhibitory control systems that would otherwise serve to dampen cellular responses and preserve synaptic plasticity. — GJC

J. Neurosci.22, 3303; 3312 (2002).

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