The neurobiology of drug addiction: cross-species insights into the dysfunction and recovery of the prefrontal cortex

Ahmet O. Ceceli, Charles W. Bradberry, Rita Z. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


A growing preclinical and clinical body of work on the effects of chronic drug use and drug addiction has extended the scope of inquiry from the putative reward-related subcortical mechanisms to higher-order executive functions as regulated by the prefrontal cortex. Here we review the neuroimaging evidence in humans and non-human primates to demonstrate the involvement of the prefrontal cortex in emotional, cognitive, and behavioral alterations in drug addiction, with particular attention to the impaired response inhibition and salience attribution (iRISA) framework. In support of iRISA, functional and structural neuroimaging studies document a role for the prefrontal cortex in assigning excessive salience to drug over non-drug-related processes with concomitant lapses in self-control, and deficits in reward-related decision-making and insight into illness. Importantly, converging insights from human and non-human primate studies suggest a causal relationship between drug addiction and prefrontal insult, indicating that chronic drug use causes the prefrontal cortex damage that underlies iRISA while changes with abstinence and recovery with treatment suggest plasticity of these same brain regions and functions. We further dissect the overlapping and distinct characteristics of drug classes, potential biomarkers that inform vulnerability and resilience, and advancements in cutting-edge psychological and neuromodulatory treatment strategies, providing a comprehensive landscape of the human and non-human primate drug addiction literature as it relates to the prefrontal cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-291
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


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