EEG provides insight into drug-related choice in addiction, potential implications for rehabilitation

November 14, 2012 by Aviva Hope Rutkin, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Scott J. Moeller.

(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University, and collaborators may have found a way to predict drug-addicted individuals' responses to drug-related stimuli. 

Their research, which was published online in the journal Brain November 12, 2012, may help improve rehabilitation outcomes for individuals with limited awareness of their own choices. This condition, known as impaired insight, makes drug rehabilitation especially difficult. 

Using (), a non-invasive way to measure activity in the brain, scientists tracked in dozens of individuals as they viewed a series of images on a screen. The scientists were looking for a particular electrical spike known as the late positive potential (LPP), which occurs in response to attention-grabbing .

"Very pleasant images evoke the LPP, and very unpleasant images do too," explained lead author Scott J. Moeller, a postdoctoral fellow at Brookhaven. "Likewise, cocaine-related images specifically capture the attention of people who are addicted to cocaine."

After each image was shown and viewed passively, participants were asked to rate how emotionally arousing they had found it. Then, once the task was over, they completed a choice task to assess which type of pictures—pleasant, unpleasant, neutral, or drug-related—they preferred to view the most. A final task enabled the researchers to categorize participants into those with impaired insight and those with intact insight.

Arousal ratings from the participants with intact insight were good predictors of which images those participants preferred. However, for those with impaired insight, LPPs proved to be much better predictors than the individual's own ratings. 

The research team hopes their results will prove valuable for people in drug rehabilitation in the future.

"You can have all to abstain from ," Moeller said, "but if at the end of the day you can't monitor your behavior, then other kinds of therapy are going to be needed to bring your behavior in line with your intentions. That's what we're thinking of in terms of a long-range clinical translation down the road."

Next, the team plans to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a brain mapping technique that measures changes in blood oxygenation as a proxy for neural activity, to pinpoint which brain regions are compromised in individuals with impaired insight. They are also developing new tests to ascertain the severity of a given person's insight impairment.

Explore further: Mental fatigue impairs midbrain function in cocaine-addicted individuals, researchers find

Related Stories

Mental fatigue impairs midbrain function in cocaine-addicted individuals, researchers find

November 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed a new connection between drug addiction and a distinct part of the brain that may govern motivation. The ...

Gray matter in brain's control center linked to ability to process reward

November 29, 2011
The more gray matter you have in the decision-making, thought-processing part of your brain, the better your ability to evaluate rewards and consequences. That may seem like an obvious conclusion, but a new study conducted ...

Recommended for you

Marijuana use may not aid patients in opioid addiction treatment

December 4, 2017
Many patients who are being treated for opioid addiction in a medication-assisted treatment clinic use marijuana to help manage their pain and mood symptoms.

For opiate addiction, study finds drug-assisted treatment is more effective than detox

November 23, 2017
Say you're a publicly insured Californian with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl or prescription narcotics, and you want to quit.

Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

November 17, 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use ...

Insomnia linked to alcohol-use frequency among early adolescents, says new psychology study

November 8, 2017
Insomnia is linked to frequency of alcohol use among early adolescents, according to new Rutgers University–Camden research.

Large declines seen in teen substance abuse, delinquency

October 25, 2017
More than a decade of data indicates teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, and they also are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting and stealing, according ...

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

0 comments

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.