Role of ghrelin in drug abuse and reward-relevant behaviors: A burgeoning field and gaps in the literature

A. R. Revitsky, L. C. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Ghrelin is a gut-brain hormone that regulates energy balance through food consumption. While ghrelin is well known for its role in hypothalamic activation and homeostatic feeding, more recent evidence suggests that ghrelin also is involved in hedonic feeding through the dopaminergic reward pathway. This paper investigated how ghrelin administration (intraperitoneal, intracerebroventricular, or directly into dopaminergic reward-relevant brain regions) activates the dopaminergic reward pathway and associated reward-relevant behavioral responses in rodents. A total of 19 empirical publications that examined one or more of these variables were included in this review. Overall, ghrelin administration increases dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens, as well as reward-relevant behaviors such as food (both standard chow and palatable foods) and alcohol consumption. Ghrelin administration also increases operant responding for sucrose, and conditioned place preference. Following a review of the small body of literature examining the effects of ghrelin administration on the dopamine reward pathway, we present a model of the relationship between ghrelin and dopaminergic reward activation. Specifically, ghrelin acts on ghrelin receptors (GHS-R1A) in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and lateral dorsal tegmental nucleus (LDTg) to stimulate the mesolimbic dopamine reward pathway, which results in increased rewarding behaviors in rodents. Results from this review suggest that selective antagonism of the ghrelin system may serve as potential treatment for addictive drug use. This review highlights gaps in the literature, including a lack of examination of sex- or age-related differences in the effects of ghrelin on dopamine reward processes. In light of vulnerability to drug abuse among female and adolescent populations, future studies should target these individual difference factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-244
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent Drug Abuse Reviews
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

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Ghrelin
Reward
Substance-Related Disorders
Dopamine
Ghrelin Receptor
Food
Rodentia
Lateral Thalamic Nuclei
Ventral Tegmental Area
Pleasure
Nucleus Accumbens
Brain
Individuality
Alcohol Drinking
Sucrose
Publications
Hormones

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this

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Role of ghrelin in drug abuse and reward-relevant behaviors : A burgeoning field and gaps in the literature. / Revitsky, A. R.; Klein, L. C.

In: Current Drug Abuse Reviews, Vol. 6, No. 3, 01.01.2013, p. 231-244.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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