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

Exercise helps treat addiction by altering brain's dopamine system

May 28, 2018
New research by the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions has identified a key mechanism in how aerobic exercise can help impact the brain in ways that may support treatment—and even prevention strategies—for ...

Warning labels on alcohol containers highly deficient, new research shows

May 21, 2018
Current health warning labels on alcohol beverage containers in New Zealand are highly deficient, new research from the University of Otago, Wellington shows.

Serving smaller alcoholic drinks could reduce the U.K.'s alcohol consumption

May 14, 2018
New research published in Addiction, conducted by researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and Sheffield, highlights the potential benefits of reducing the standard serving size of alcoholic beverages.

Anti-alcoholism drug shows promise in animal models

May 3, 2018
Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have successfully tested in animals a drug that, they say, may one day help block the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that incessantly coax people with alcoholism to drink. ...

FDA-approved drugs to treat diabetes and obesity may reduce cocaine relapse and help addicted people break the habit

April 28, 2018
Cocaine and other drugs of abuse hijack the natural reward circuits in the brain. In part, that's why it's so hard to quit using these substances. Moreover, relapse rates hover between 40 and 60 percent, similar to rates ...

Buprenorphine may be safer than methadone if treatment duration is longer, study suggests

April 20, 2018
The less commonly prescribed opioid substitute buprenorphine may be safer than methadone for problem opioid users, especially if used during the first month of treatment, according to a study which includes University of ...

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.