We review the modifications and implications of the effect of light forces on atoms when the field is enclosed in an optical resonator of high finesse. The systems considered range from a single atom strongly coupled to a single mode of a high-Q microcavity to a large ensemble of atoms in a highly degenerate quasi-confocal resonator. We set up general models that allow us to obtain analytic expressions for the optical potential, friction, and diffusion. In the bad-cavity limit the modified cooling properties can be attributed to the spectral modifications of light absorption and spontaneous emission in a form of generalized and enhanced Doppler cooling. For the strong coupling regime in a good cavity, we identify the dynamical coupling between the light field intensity and the atomic motion as the central mechanism underlying the cavity-induced cooling. The dynamical cavity cooling, which does not rely on spontaneous emission, can be enhanced by multimode cavity geometries because of the effect of coherent photon redistribution between different modes. The model is then generalized to include several distinct frequencies to account for more general trap geometries. Finally we show that the field-induced buildup of correlations between the motion of different particles plays a central role in the scaling behavior of the system. Depending on the geometry and parameters, its effect ranges from strong destructive interference, slowing down the cooling process, to self-organized crystallization, implying atomic self-trapping and faster cooling to lower temperatures by cooperative coherent scattering.
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