Experimental protocols for behavioral imaging: Seeing animal models of drug abuse in a new light

Alexandra R. Aarons, Amanda Talan, Wynne K. Schiffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Behavioral neuroimaging is a rapidly evolving discipline that represents a marriage between the fields of behavioral neuroscience and preclinical molecular imaging. This union highlights the changing role of imaging in translational research. Techniques developed for humans are now widely applied in the study of animal models of brain disorders such as drug addiction. Small animal or preclinical imaging allows us to interrogate core features of addiction from both behavioral and biological endpoints. Snapshots of brain activity allow us to better understand changes in brain function and behavior associated with initial drug exposure, the emergence of drug escalation, and repeated bouts of drug withdrawal and relapse. Here we review the development and validation of new behavioral imaging paradigms and several clinically relevant radiotracers used to capture dynamic molecular events in behaving animals. We will discuss ways in which behavioral imaging protocols can be optimized to increase throughput and quantitative methods. Finally, we discuss our experience with the practical aspects of behavioral neuroimaging, so investigators can utilize effective animal models to better understand the addicted brain and behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-115
Number of pages23
JournalCurrent Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences
StatePublished - Mar 13 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful for helpful discussions with Dr. David Eidelberg. We are also grateful for scientific support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA-R01-DA25729) and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS RC1-ES018534) to WKS, as well as the Department of Defense (DOD) Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP 094020) to WKS.

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011.


  • Addiction
  • Behavioral neuroimaging
  • Functional neuroimaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Positron emission tomograph (PET)
  • Resting state


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