Addiction circuitry in the human brain

Nora D. Volkow, Gene Jack Wang, Joanna S. Fowler, Dardo Tomasi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

415 Scopus citations


A major challenge in understanding substance-use disorders lies in uncovering why some individuals become addicted when exposed to drugs, whereas others do not. Although genetic, developmental, and environmental factors are recognized as major contributors to a person's risk of becoming addicted, the neurobiological processes that underlie this vulnerability are still poorly understood. Imaging studies suggest that individual variations in key dopamine-modulated brain circuits, including circuits involved in reward, memory, executive function, and motivation, contribute to some of the differences in addiction vulnerability. A better understanding of the main circuits affected by chronic drug use and the influence of social stressors, developmental trajectories, and genetic background on these circuits is bound to lead to a better understanding of addiction and to more effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of substance-use disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-336
Number of pages16
JournalAnnual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Accumbens
  • Cingulate gyrus
  • Conditioning
  • Dorsal striatum
  • Executive function
  • Orbitofrontal cortex


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