Chapter 25 In search of addiction in the brains of laboratory animals


There are currently two major competing models of addiction, the chronic brain disease model and the choice model.

Though there are different versions of these two general models, the dispute has largely concentrated on the question of whether addiction is a chronic medical disease, such as, for instance, diabetes, but one that would affect the brain, versus a harmful pattern of goal-directed and voluntary choices.

Here it will be explained through a paradigmatic example why this dispute is still open and why it will remain so in the foreseeable future. Briefly, it is argued that this is due to a problem of underdetermination by current findings, notably findings on remission from addiction.

It is then explained why research on animal models has so far been of little help in bringing about a resolution to this problem. Paradoxically, this is because animals have little control and choice over their life in the laboratory. Everything is taken care of by the experimenters and other caregivers, thereby undermining some of the ground on which we can infer a brain dysfunction from an observed brain change or difference.


Serge H. Ahmed - ORCiD:


Evaluating the Brain Disease Model of Addiction is available from: