Table of Contents
ISRN Neuroscience
Volume 2013, Article ID 604847, 24 pages
Review Article

Off the Beaten Path: Drug Addiction and the Pontine Laterodorsal Tegmentum

Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universitetsparken 2, University of Copenhagen, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

Received 17 April 2013; Accepted 29 May 2013

Academic Editors: A. Almeida, A. K. Clark, and A. Scuteri

Copyright © 2013 Kristi A. Kohlmeier. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Drug addiction is a multileveled behavior controlled by interactions among many diverse neuronal groups involving several neurotransmitter systems. The involvement of brainstem-sourced, cholinergic neurotransmission in the development of addiction and in the persistent physiological processes that drive this maladaptive behavior has not been widely investigated. The major cholinergic input to neurons in the midbrain which are instrumental in assessment of reward and assignment of salience to stimuli, including drugs of abuse, sources from acetylcholine- (ACh-) containing pontine neurons of the laterodorsal tegmentum (LDT). Excitatory LDT input, likely cholinergic, is critical in allowing behaviorally relevant neuronal firing patterns within midbrain reward circuitry. Via this control, the LDT is positioned to be importantly involved in development of compulsive, addictive patterns of behavior. The goal of this review is to present the anatomical, physiological, and behavioral evidence suggesting a role of the LDT in the neurobiology underlying addiction to drugs of abuse. Although focus is directed on the evidence supporting a vital participation of the cholinergic neurons of the LDT, data indicating a contribution of noncholinergic LDT neurons to processes underlying addiction are also reviewed. While sparse, available information of actions of drugs of abuse on LDT cells and the output of these neurons as well as their influence on addiction-related behavior are also presented. Taken together, data from studies presented in this review strongly support the position that the LDT is a major player in the neurobiology of drug addiction. Accordingly, the LDT may serve as a future treatment target for efficacious pharmaceutical combat of drug addiction.