The systems view in addiction research
The wealth of information accessible on the molecular level after completion of sequencing of the human and other genomes and in conjunction with new high-throughput technologies like microarrays has paved the way for research on whole systems rather than on single components. Here we describe exemplarily the construction of a rather complex molecular network involved in alcohol addiction by using information from DNA-microarray studies in alcohol-dependent animals. In this network, haemoglobin downregulation in different parts of the brain reward system plays a central role in affecting synaptic plasticity, circadian rhythmicity and opioid receptors. Furthermore, we discuss the dynamic aspect of biological systems with respect to repeated and intermittent drug intake. This aspect can best be captured by the allostatic model on the molecular level. Using a molecular oscillator model where levels of oscillations are changed by repetitive drug administration, changes in set point adjustment are described that underlay allostatic shifts in drug reinforcement processes.