Antireward, compulsivity, and addiction: seminal contributions of Dr. Athina Markou to motivational dysregulation in addiction (2015)

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2017 Jan 3. doi: 10.1007/s00213-016-4484-6.

Koob GF1.



Addiction is defined as a chronically relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking that is hypothesized to derive from multiple sources of motivational dysregulation.


Dr. Athina Markou made seminal contributions to our understanding of the neurobiology of addiction with her studies on the dysregulation of reward function using animal models with construct validity. Repeated overstimulation of the reward systems with drugs of abuse decreases reward function, characterized by brain stimulation reward and presumbably reflecting dysphoria-like states. The construct of negative reinforcement, defined as drug taking that alleviates a negative emotional state that is created by drug abstinence, is particularly relevant as a driving force in both the withdrawal/negative affect and preoccupation/anticipation stages of the addiction cycle.


The negative emotional state that drives such negative reinforcement is hypothesized to derive from the dysregulation of key neurochemical circuits that drive incentive-salience/reward systems (dopamine, opioid peptides) in the ventral striatum and from the recruitment of brain stress systems (corticotropin-releasing factor, dynorphin) within the extended amygdala. As drug taking becomes compulsive-like, the factors that motivate behavior are hypothesized to shift to drug-seeking behavior that is driven not only by positive reinforcement but also by negative reinforcement. This shift in motivation is hypothesized to reflect the allostatic misregulation of hedonic tone such that drug taking makes the hedonic negative emotional state worse during the process of seeking temporary relief with compulsive drug taking.

KEYWORDS: Addiction; Brain stimulation reward; Corticotropin-releasing factor; Dependence; Drug Abuse; Dynorphin; Intracranial self-stimulation; Negative reinforcement

PMID: 28050629

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-016-4484-6