Ascending regulation of drug reward:  neuromodulator control of novel thalamic circuits mediating nicotine and cocaine intake

Abstract:  Ascending projection systems such as cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain and orexin neurons in the lateral hypothalamus have historically been described as neuromodulators. This categorization has carried with it the assumption that these systems act globally in the brain to gait non-specific behavioral functions. Evidence will be provided that both orexin and cholinergic neurotransmission can mediate nicotine and cocaine intake, respectively, through their regulation of discrete thalamic circuits. These data reveal the capacity of neuromodulators to control very specific aspects of reward-related behavior, as well as novel circuit mechanisms that may serve as targets to reduce drug seeking in addiction.