Brain mechanisms of Change in Addictions Treatment: Models, Methods, and Emerging Findings

Curr Addict Rep. 2016 Sep;3(3):332-342. doi: 10.1007/s40429-016-0113-z. Epub 2016 Jul 9.


Increased understanding of "how" and "for whom" treatment works at the level of the brain has potential to transform addictions treatment through the development of innovative neuroscience-informed interventions. The 2015 Science of Change meeting bridged the fields of neuroscience and psychotherapy research to identify brain mechanisms of behavior change that are "common" across therapies, and "specific" to distinct behavioral interventions. Conceptual models of brain mechanisms underlying effects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness interventions, and Motivational Interviewing were discussed. Presentations covered methods for integrating neuroimaging into psychotherapy research, and novel analytic approaches. Effects of heavy substance use on the brain, and recovery of brain functioning with sustained abstinence, which may be facilitated by cognitive training, were reviewed. Neuroimaging provides powerful tools for determining brain mechanisms underlying psychotherapy and medication effects, predicting and monitoring outcomes, developing novel interventions that target specific brain circuits, and identifying for whom an intervention will be effective.

Keywords: addictive behaviors; alcohol; neuroimaging psychotherapy; substance use disorder; translational.