Chronic use of drugs of abuse results in neurochemical, morphological and behavioral plasticity that underlies the emergence of compulsive drug seeking and vulnerability to relapse during periods of attempted abstinence. Identifying and reversing addiction-relevant plasticity is seen as a potential point of pharmacotherapeutic intervention in drug-addicted individuals. Despite considerable advances in our understanding of the actions of drugs of abuse in the brain, this information has thus far yielded few novel treatment options addicted individuals. MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that can each regulate the translation of hundreds to thousands of messenger RNAs. The highly pleiotropic nature of miRNAs has focused attention on their contribution to addiction-relevant structural and functional plasticity in the brain and their potential utility as targets for medications development. In this review, we discuss the roles of miRNAs in synaptic plasticity underlying the development of addiction and then briefly discuss the possibility of using circulating miRNA as biomarkers for addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12424
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Addiction
  • alcohol
  • circulating RNA
  • epigenetics
  • microRNA
  • neuroplasticity
  • opiates
  • psychostimulants
  • synaptic plasticity


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