Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Catherine L. Reed

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2013 Alex R. Johnson


Drug addiction is a complex behavioral disorder that has been extensively studied in an attempt to uncover its underlying biological mechanisms. This paper contributes to the literature on addiction by demonstrating that addiction is a result of an improperly functioning decision making process. The areas of the brain that are most implicated in decision making demonstrate significant overlap with those areas most affected by addiction. Specifically, the limbic structures of the brain (amygdala, basal ganglia, and mesolimbic reward pathway) and the prefrontal cortices (orbitofrontal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex) are discussed in relation to their involvement in prominent theories of decision making such as Prospect Theory and the Somatic Marker Hypothesis. This paper will then use the above knowledge regarding the specific brain mechanisms that control decision making and apply it to neurobiological theories of addiction. The view that addiction is a behavioral disorder that results primarily from a degradation of the brain mechanisms involved in decision making processes is important to consider because it can help provide a concrete approach to developing more individualized and effective treatment programs in the future.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.