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Optogenetics: potentials for addiction research

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Research on the biology of addiction has advanced significantly over the last 50 years expanding our understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying reward, reinforcement and craving. Novel experimental approaches and techniques have provided an ever increasing armory of tools to dissect behavioral processes, neural networks and molecular mechanisms. The ultimate goal is to reintegrate this knowledge into a coherent, mechanistic framework of addiction to help identify new treatment. This can be greatly facilitated by using tools that allow, with great spatial and temporal specificity, to link molecular changes with altered activation of neural circuits and behavior. Such specificity can now be achieved by using optogenetic tools. Our review describes the general principles of optogenetics and its use to understand the links between neural activity and behavior. We also provide an overview of recent studies using optogenetic tools in addiction and consider some outstanding questions of addiction research that are particularly amenable for optogenetic approaches.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2011


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