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David Aguinaga, Mireia Casanovas, Rafael Rivas-Santisteban, Irene Reyes-Resina, Gemma Navarro, and Rafael Franco

Addiction and eating disorders involve brain reward circuits. Binge eating predisposes to addictive behavior, while the cessation of exposure to drugs of abuse leads to reward activities, including intake of tasty foods. Cocaine use is associated with a decrease in food intake, with reversal after drug use is discontinued. Exciting new findings show that receptors for the ‘hunger’ hormone, ghrelin, directly interact with the sigma-1 receptor (σ1R), which is a target of cocaine. σ1Rs are key players in regulating dopaminergic neurotransmission and ghrelin-mediated actions. This review focuses on the σ1 receptor as a general neuroendocrine regulator by directly interacting with neuronal G-protein-coupled receptors. This review also covers the early mechanisms by which cocaine binding to σ1 blocks the food-seeking behavior triggered by ghrelin. Those findings appear as fundamental to understand common mechanisms in drug addiction and eating disorders.