Incentive salience

Incentive salience

Incentive salience occurs when stimuli associated with drug-taking behavior begin reinforcing themselves. Thus, if a person's addiction is extinguished and he is then presented with a stimulus that has been associated with the drug in the past, a craving for that drug occurs. For example, anti-drug agencies previously used posters with images of drug paraphernalia as an attempt to show the dangers of drug use. However, such posters are no longer used because of the effects of incentive salience in causing relapse upon sight of the stimuli illustrated in the posters.

The incentive salience theory of addiction suggests that "liking" (hedonic value) of a drug may be dissociated from "wanting" the drug due to increased incentive salience. [Berridge, K.C., Robinson, T.E. What is the role of dopamine in reward: hedonic impact, reward learning, or incentive salience? Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 1998 Dec;28(3):309-69. ] In fact, if the incentive salience associated with drug taking becomes pathologically amplified, the user may want the drug more and more while liking it less and less as tolerance develops to the drug's pleasureable effects. Proponents of this model argue that this explains the development of uncontrolled addictive behavior, which is not motivated by the hedonic value that caused acquisition of the habit in the first place.


See also

* Dopamine
* Kent C. Berridge

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