BDNF and Drug Dependence

Science Signaling  30 Jun 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 77, pp. ec221
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.277ec221

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a growth factor involved in neuronal plasticity that is expressed after chronic administration of drugs of abuse and may play a crucial role in chronic opiate effects. Vargas-Perez et al. found that BDNF was directly involved in the switching mechanism in the ventral tegmental area, from an opiate-naïve, dopamine-independent drug reward substrate to an opiate-dependent, dopamine-dependent motivational substrate. In the ventral tegmental area, BDNF changed the action of γ-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors from inhibitory to excitatory. This change led to behavioral changes that defined a neurobiological boundary between the acute phase of drug-taking and addiction.

H. Vargas-Perez, R. Ting-A-Kee, C. H. Walton, D. M. Hansen, R. Razavi, L. Clarke, M. R. Bufalino, D. W. Allison, S. C. Steffensen, D. van der Kooy, Ventral tegmental area BDNF induces an opiate-dependent–like reward state in naïve rats. Science 324, 1732–1734 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]