The cerebellum and addiction: insights gained from neuroimaging research

Addict Biol. 2014 May;19(3):317-31. doi: 10.1111/adb.12101.


Although cerebellar alterations have been consistently noted in the addiction literature, the pathophysiology of this link remains unclear. The cerebellum is commonly classified as a motor structure, but human functional neuroimaging along with clinical observations in cerebellar stroke patients and anatomical tract tracing in non-human primates suggests its involvement in cognitive and affective processing. A comprehensive literature search on the role of the cerebellum in addiction was performed. This review article (1) considers the potential role of the cerebellum in addiction; (2) summarizes the cerebellar structural alterations linked to addiction; (3) presents the functional neuroimaging evidence linking the cerebellum with addiction; and (4) proposes a model for addiction that underscores the role of the cerebellum. The data implicate the cerebellum as an intermediary between motor and reward, motivation and cognitive control systems, as all are relevant etiologic factors in addiction. Furthermore, consideration of these findings could contribute to deeper and more sophisticated insights into normal reward and motivational function. The goal of this review is to spread awareness of cerebellar involvement in addictive processes, and to suggest a preliminary model for its potential role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / pathology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology
  • Cerebellar Diseases / pathology*
  • Cerebellar Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cerebellum / pathology*
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology