Basic Neurobiology of Addiction


Vasopressin has an hormonal function as an antidiuretic hormone that helps control water balance in the body. It is derived from the posterior pituitary within the HPA axis but also has extrahypothalamic actions in the central nervous system. Vasopressin is distributed widely in the brain outside of the HPA axis, with the highest concentrations in the suprachiasmatic and supraoptic nuclei and substantial levels in the septum and locus coeruleus. Vasopressin neurons innervate the extended amygdala and are derived from cell bodies in the medial bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. The distribution of vasopressin receptors is prominent in the rat’s extended amygdala, with high concentrations in the lateral and supracapsular bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, central nucleus of the amygdala, and nucleus accumbens shell. Vasopressin produces autonomic arousal-promoting effects in brain structures relevant to memory, including the hippocampus. Vasopressin V1b receptor antagonists have been shown to produce anxiolytic-like and antidepressant-like effects in animal models, and such anxiolytic-like actions were shown to be localized to the amygdala (Figure 2.15).

Figure 2.15 Vasopressin localization. Schematic of the most prominent vasopressin-immunoreactive projections. AMB, ambiguus nucleus; BST, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; CG, midbrain central gray; DM, dorsomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus; DR, dorsal raphe nucleus; DVC, dorsal vagal complex; HIP, ventral hippocampus; LC, locus coeruleus; LH; lateral habenular nucleus; LS; lateral septum; MA, medial nucleus of the amygdala; MP; medial preoptic area; OT, olfactory tubercle; ovlt; organum vasculosum laminae terminalis; PB, parabrachial nucleus; PV, periventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus; PVN, paraventricular nucleus; SCN, suprachiasmatic nucleus; SON, supraoptic nucleus; VSA, ventral septal area. [Modified with permission from de Vries GJ, Miller MA. Anatomy and function of extrahypothalamic vasopressin systems in the brain. In: Urban IJA, Burbach JPH, de Wied D (eds.) Advances in Brain Vasopressin (series title: Progress in Brain Research, vol 119). Elsevier, New York, 1998, pp. 3-20.]

Back to top