Psychobiology of novelty seeking and drug seeking behavior

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

571 Scopus citations


There is considerable evidence that high novelty seekers are at increased risk for using drugs of abuse relative to low novelty seekers. This review examines the potential biological mechanism that may help explain the relationship between novelty seeking and drug seeking behavior. Evidence is summarized to suggest that exposure to novelty activates, at least in part, the same neural substrate that mediates the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse. It is argued that individual differences in response to novelty and drugs may relate to individual differences in the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system of the brain. Individual differences in both novelty seeking and drug seeking behavior, while under some degree of genetic control, appear to be modifiable by early developmental experiences and this modification may relate to alterations in activity of the mesolimbic DA system. Within the context of this biological formulation, implications for the prevention and treatment of drug abuse are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-43
Number of pages21
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Portions of the work cited in this review were funded by United States Public Health Service grant DA05312.


  • Dopamine
  • Drug abuse
  • Drug abuse prevention
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Genetics
  • Mesolimbic dopamine system
  • Novelty
  • Novelty seeking
  • Sensation seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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