Neural circuit adaptations during drug withdrawal — Spotlight on the lateral habenula

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Withdrawal after drug intake triggers a wealth of affective states including negative feelings reminiscent of depressive symptoms. This negative state can ultimately be crucial for relapse, a hallmark of addiction. Adaptations in a wide number of neuronal circuits underlie aspects of drug withdrawal, however causality between cellular modifications within these systems and precise behavioral phenotypes remains poorly described. Recent advances point to an instrumental role of the lateral habenula in driving depressive-like states during drug withdrawal. In this review we will discuss the general behavioral features of drug withdrawal, the importance of plasticity mechanisms in the mesolimbic systems, and the latest discoveries highlighting the implications of lateral habenula in drug addiction. We will further stress how specific interventions in the lateral habenula efficiently ameliorate depressive symptoms. Altogether, this work aims to provide a general knowledge on the cellular and circuit basis underlying drug withdrawal, ultimately speculating on potential treatment for precise aspects of addiction.

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