Contribution of Dynorphin and Orexin Neuropeptide Systems to the Motivational Effects of Alcohol

  • Rachel I. Anderson
  • David E. Moorman
  • Howard C. BeckerEmail author
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 248)


Understanding the neural systems that drive alcohol motivation and are disrupted in alcohol use disorders is of critical importance in developing novel treatments. The dynorphin and orexin/hypocretin neuropeptide systems are particularly relevant with respect to alcohol use and misuse. Both systems are strongly associated with alcohol-seeking behaviors, particularly in cases of high levels of alcohol use as seen in dependence. Furthermore, both systems also play a role in stress and anxiety, indicating that disruption of these systems may underlie long-term homeostatic dysregulation seen in alcohol use disorders. These systems are also closely interrelated with one another – dynorphin/kappa opioid receptors and orexin/hypocretin receptors are found in similar regions and hypocretin/orexin neurons also express dynorphin – suggesting that these two systems may work together in the regulation of alcohol seeking and may be mutually disrupted in alcohol use disorders. This chapter reviews studies demonstrating a role for each of these systems in motivated behavior, with a focus on their roles in regulating alcohol-seeking and self-administration behaviors. Consideration is also given to evidence indicating that these neuropeptide systems may be viable targets for the development of potential treatments for alcohol use disorders.


Alcohol Dynorphin Ethanol Hypocretin Kappa opioid receptor Orexin 



This work was supported by NIH grants F32 AA023700 (RIA), P50 AA010761 (HCB), U01 AA014095 (HCB), U01 AA020929 (HCB), AA024571 (DEM), AA025481 (DEM), DA041674 (DEM), VA Medical Research BLR&D BX000813 (HCB), and a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (DEM).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel I. Anderson
    • 1
    • 2
  • David E. Moorman
    • 3
  • Howard C. Becker
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  2. 2.Science and Technology Policy FellowshipsAmerican Association for the Advancement of ScienceWashington, DCUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Neuroscience and Behavior Graduate ProgramUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  4. 4.Charleston Alcohol Research CenterMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  5. 5.Department of NeuroscienceMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  6. 6.Department of Veterans AffairsRalph H. Johnson VA Medical CenterCharlestonUSA

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