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Keywords:

  • addiction;
  • learning theory;
  • goal;
  • cue-reactivity;
  • habit

Learning theory proposes that drug seeking is a synthesis of multiple controllers. Whereas goal-directed drug seeking is determined by the anticipated incentive value of the drug, habitual drug seeking is elicited by stimuli that have formed a direct association with the response. Moreover, drug-paired stimuli can transfer control over separately trained drug seeking responses by retrieving an expectation of the drug's identity (specific transfer) or incentive value (general transfer). This review covers outcome devaluation and transfer of stimulus-control procedures in humans and animals, which isolate the differential governance of drug seeking by these four controllers following various degrees of contingent and noncontingent drug exposure. The neural mechanisms underpinning these four controllers are also reviewed. These studies suggest that although initial drug seeking is goal-directed, chronic drug exposure confers a progressive loss of control over action selection by specific outcome representations (impaired outcome devaluation and specific transfer), and a concomitant increase in control over action selection by antecedent stimuli (enhanced habit and general transfer). The prefrontal cortex and mediodorsal thalamus may play a role in this drug-induced transition to behavioral autonomy.