Drug addiction involves long-term behavioral abnormalities that arise in response to repeated exposure to drugs of abuse in vulnerable individuals. It is a multifactorial syndrome involving a complex interplay between genes and the environment. Evidence suggests that the underlying mechanisms regulating these persistent behavioral abnormalities involve changes in gene expression throughout the brain's reward circuitry, in particular, in the mesolimbic dopamine system. In the past decade, investigations have begun to reveal potential genes involved in the risk for addiction through genomewide association studies. Additionally, a crucial role for epigenetic mechanisms, which mediate the enduring effects of drugs of abuse on the brain in animal models of addiction, has been established. This chapter focuses on recent evidence that genetic and epigenetic regulatory events underlie the changes throughout the reward circuitry in humans, as well as animal models of addiction. While further investigations are necessary, a picture of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms involved in addiction is beginning to emerge and the insight gained from these studies will be key to the identification of novel targets for improved diagnosis and treatment of addiction syndromes in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeurogenetics, Part II
EditorsDaniel H. Geschwind, Henry L. Paulson, Christine Klein
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780444640765
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameHandbook of Clinical Neurology
ISSN (Print)0072-9752
ISSN (Electronic)2212-4152


  • DNA methylation
  • addiction
  • chromatin
  • epigenetics
  • genomewide association studies
  • histone modifications
  • small noncoding RNAs
  • substance abuse disorder


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