The nucleus accumbens and alcoholism: a target for deep brain stimulation

Neurosurg Focus. 2018 Aug;45(2):E12. doi: 10.3171/2018.5.FOCUS18157.


Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a difficult to treat condition with a significant global public health and cost burden. The nucleus accumbens (NAc) has been implicated in AUD and identified as an ideal target for deep brain stimulation (DBS). There are promising preclinical animal studies of DBS for alcohol consumption as well as some initial human clinical studies that have shown some promise at reducing alcohol-related cravings and, in some instances, achieving long-term abstinence. In this review, the authors discuss the evidence and concepts supporting the role of the NAc in AUD, summarize the findings from published NAc DBS studies in animal models and humans, and consider the challenges and propose future directions for neuromodulation of the NAc for the treatment of AUD.

Keywords: AUD = alcohol use disorder; AUQ = Alcohol Urge Questionnaire; BOLD = blood oxygen level–dependent; DBS = deep brain stimulation; GABA = g-aminobutyric acid; NAc = nucleus accumbens; VTA = ventral tegmental area; addiction; alcoholism; binge drinking; deep brain stimulation; fMRI = functional MRI; mPFC = medial prefrontal cortex; neuromodulation; nucleus accumbens; responsive neurostimulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Deep Brain Stimulation*
  • Humans
  • Nucleus Accumbens / surgery*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome