Addiction as a disorder of decision-making

May 22, 2013

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."

Explore further: fMRI study uncovers neural mechanism underlying drug cravings

Related Stories

fMRI study uncovers neural mechanism underlying drug cravings

January 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

April 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

October 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 ...

Recommended for you

Neuro chip records brain cell activity

October 26, 2016

Brain functions are controlled by millions of brain cells. However, in order to understand how the brain controls functions, such as simple reflexes or learning and memory, we must be able to record the activity of large ...

After blindness, the adult brain can learn to see again

October 25, 2016

More than 40 million people worldwide are blind, and many of them reach this condition after many years of slow and progressive retinal degeneration. The development of sophisticated prostheses or new light-responsive elements, ...

The current state of psychobiotics

October 25, 2016

Now that we know that gut bacteria can speak to the brain—in ways that affect our mood, our appetite, and even our circadian rhythms—the next challenge for scientists is to control this communication. The science of psychobiotics, ...

Can a brain-computer interface convert your thoughts to text?

October 25, 2016

Ever wonder what it would be like if a device could decode your thoughts into actual speech or written words? While this might enhance the capabilities of already existing speech interfaces with devices, it could be a potential ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.