Serotonin at the nexus of impulsivity and cue reactivity in cocaine addiction

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Cocaine abuse and addiction remain great challenges on the public health agendas in the U.S. and the world. Increasingly sophisticated perspectives on addiction to cocaine and other drugs of abuse have evolved with concerted research efforts over the last 30 years. Relapse remains a particularly powerful clinical problem as, even upon termination of drug use and initiation of abstinence, the recidivism rates can be very high. The cycling course of cocaine intake, abstinence and relapse is tied to a multitude of behavioral and cognitive processes including impulsivity (a predisposition toward rapid unplanned reactions to stimuli without regard to the negative consequences), and cocaine cue reactivity (responsivity to cocaine-associated stimuli) cited as two key phenotypes that contribute to relapse vulnerability even years into recovery. Preclinical studies suggest that serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) neurotransmission in key neural circuits may contribute to these interlocked phenotypes well as the altered neurobiological states evoked by cocaine that precipitate relapse events. As such, 5-HT is an important target in the quest to understand the neurobiology of relapse-predictive phenotypes, to successfully treat this complex disorder and improve diagnostic and prognostic capabilities. This review emphasizes the role of 5-HT and its receptor proteins in key addiction phenotypes and the implications of current findings to the future of therapeutics in addiction. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'NIDA 40th Anniversary Issue'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-478
Number of pages19
Issue numberPART B
StatePublished - 2014


  • Addiction
  • Cocaine
  • Cue reactivity
  • Dependence
  • Impulsivity
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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