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Assignment: The Reward Pathway and Addiction

For this Assignment, you will continue to learn about the structures and neurotransmitters of the brain by exploring the reward pathway and how it is impacted by addictive drugs or behaviors.

The mesolimbic pathway, or the reward pathway, increases the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens to provide a sense of pleasure and make the behavior more likely. This works well when the behavior conveys a survival advantage—such as eating, drinking, and reproductive behaviors—but not so well when this pathway is hijacked by recreational drugs or addictive behaviors, such as gambling or excessive exercise.

To prepare:

  • Review this week’s Learning Resources that focus on the reward network of the brain and extend your research as necessary.
  • Choose a specific addictive substance or behavior that interests you. Research its effects on the reward pathway and identify a treatment for the addiction you selected.

Write a 4- to 5-page APA-style paper that addresses the following:

  • Describe the reward network of the brain, including the regions and neurotransmitters involved. Include a description of why this pathway is important from an evolutionary perspective.
  • Select and describe how a particular addictive substance or behavior influences this reward pathway.
  • Describe a treatment for the addiction you selected. Consider how effective the treatment is and what might be done differently, given your understanding of neurophysiology and neuroanatomy.

Support your Assignment with specific references to all resources used in its preparation. You are to provide a reference list for all resources, including those in the Learning Resources for this course.

Breedlove, S. M., & Watson, N. V. (2019). Behavioral neuroscience (9th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

  • Chapter 4, “The Chemistry of Behavior”

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