Translational Research on Habit and Alcohol

Theresa H. McKim, Tatiana A. Shnitko, Donita L. Robinson, Charlotte A. Boettiger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Habitual actions enable efficient daily living, but they can also contribute to pathological behaviors that are resistant to change, such as alcoholism. Habitual behaviors are learned actions that appear goal-directed but are in fact no longer under the control of the action’s outcome. Instead, these actions are triggered by stimuli, which may be exogenous or interoceptive, discrete or contextual. A major hallmark characteristic of alcoholism is continued alcohol use despite serious negative consequences. In essence, although the outcome of alcohol seeking and drinking is dramatically devalued, these actions persist, often triggered by environmental cues associated with alcohol use. Thus, alcoholism meets the definition of an initially goal-directed behavior that converts to a habit-based process. Habit and alcohol have been well investigated in rodent models, with comparatively less research in non-human primates and people. This review focuses on translational research on habit and alcohol with an emphasis on cross-species methodology and neural circuitry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-49
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Addiction Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Addiction
  • Alcohol use disorders
  • Animal model
  • Caudate
  • Dopamine
  • Dorsolateral striatum
  • Dorsomedial striatum
  • Executive function
  • Goal-directed
  • Putamen
  • Stimulus-response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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