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Activation of reward circuitry in human opiate addicts


Dr L. A. Sell, Drugs North West, Mental Health Services of Salford, Bury New Road, Manchester M25 3BL, UK.


The neurobiological mechanisms of opiate addictive behaviour in humans are unknown. A proposed model of addiction implicates ascending brainstem neuromodulatory systems, particularly dopamine. Using functional neuroimaging, we assessed the neural response to heroin and heroin-related cues in established opiate addicts. We show that the effect of both heroin and heroin-related visual cues are maximally expressed in the sites of origin of ascending midbrain neuromodulatory systems. These context-specific midbrain activations predict responses to salient visual cues in cortical and subcortical regions implicated in reward-related behaviour. These findings implicate common neurobiological processes underlying drug and drug-cue-related effects.

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