This article highlights the research presentations at the satellite symposium on "Brain Pathways to Recovery from Alcohol Dependence" held at the 2013 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting. The purpose of this symposium was to provide an up to date overview of research efforts focusing on understanding brain mechanisms that contribute to recovery from alcohol dependence. A panel of scientists from the alcohol and addiction research field presented their insights and perspectives on brain mechanisms that may underlie both recovery and lack of recovery from alcohol dependence. The four sessions of the symposium encompassed multilevel studies exploring mechanisms underlying relapse and craving associated with sustained alcohol abstinence, cognitive function deficit and recovery, and translational studies on preventing relapse and promoting recovery. Gaps in our knowledge and research opportunities were also discussed.