Addiction as a disorder of decision-making

New research shows that craving drugs such as nicotine can be visualized in specific regions of the brain that are implicated in determining the value of actions, in planning actions and in motivation. Dr. Alain Dagher, from McGill University, suggests abnormal interactions between these decision-making brain regions could underlie addiction. These results were presented at the 2013 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience - Association Canadienne des Neurosciences (CAN-ACN).

Neuroeconomics is a field of research which seeks to explain decision making in humans based on calculating costs and likely rewards or benefits of choices individuals make. Previous studies have suggested addicted individuals place greater value on immediate rewards (cigarette smoking) over delayed rewards (health benefits). Research done by Dr. Dagher and colleagues show how the value of the drug, which is indicated by the degree of craving, varies based on drug availability, decision to quit and other factors. He also shows that this perceived value of the drug at a given time can be visualized in the brains of addicted individuals by (fMRI), and that imaging results can be used to predict subsequent consumption.

Dr. Dagher showed that a specific brain region called the (abbreviated DLPFC) regulates cigarette craving in response to drug cues - seeing people smoke, or smelling cigarettes - and that these induced cravings could be altered by inactivating the DLPFC by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). He suggests addiction may result from abberrant connections between the DLFPC and other brain region in susceptible individuals. These results could provide a rational basis for novel interventions to reduce cravings in addicted individuals, such as or transcranial stimulation of the DLFPC.

Concluding quote from Dr. Dagher: " have often centred on whether addictive behaviour is a choice or a brain disease. This research allows us to view addiction as a pathology of choice. Dysfunction in that assign value to possible options may lead to choosing harmful behaviours."

Provided by Canadian Association for Neuroscience

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

fMRI study uncovers neural mechanism underlying drug cravings

Jan 28, 2013

Addiction may result from abnormal brain circuitry in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls decision-making. Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Molecular Imaging Science in Japan collaborating with colleagues ...

Stimulating the brain blunts cigarette craving

Apr 16, 2013

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths globally. Unfortunately smoking cessation is difficult, with more than 90% of attempts to quit resulting in relapse.

Influencing craving for cigarettes by stimulating the brain

Oct 31, 2011

Targeted brain stimulation increases cigarette cravings, a new study in Biological Psychiatry has found, which may ultimately lead to new treatments that reverse these effects. Cues associated with cigarette smoking, such a ...

Recommended for you

Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations

13 hours ago

Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations, previously believed that only the brain could perform. This is according to a study from Umeå University in Sweden published in the journal Nature Ne ...

Memory in silent neurons

Aug 31, 2014

When we learn, we associate a sensory experience either with other stimuli or with a certain type of behavior. The neurons in the cerebral cortex that transmit the information modify the synaptic connections ...

Why your favourite song takes you down memory lane

Aug 28, 2014

Music triggers different functions of the brain, which helps explain why listening to a song you like might be enjoyable but a favourite song may plunge you into nostalgia, scientists said on Thursday.

User comments