Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Molecular Imaging Science in Japan collaborating with colleagues from the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University in Canada reported that an aberrant interaction between the lateral and orbital regions of the frontal cortex of the brain in response to a drug related cue is the seat of drug cravings in the Jan., 28, 2013, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the brain activity of a group of 10 smokers, following exposure to cigarette cues under two different conditions of cigarette availability. In one experiment cigarettes were available immediately and in the other they were not.
The results demonstrate that in smokers the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) tracks the level of craving while the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DPFC) is responsible for integrating drug cues and drug availability. Moreover, the DPFC has the ability to suppress activity in the OFC when the cigarette is unavailable. When the DPFC was inactivated using TMS, both craving and craving-related signals in the OFC became independent of drug availability.
These findings will help understand the neural basis of addiction and may contribute to a therapeutic approach for addiction to cigarettes, food, sex, alcohol, Facebook, video games, and other drugs. The biochemical pathways of addiction onset may be different for each substance but the craving response and control of that response is a common factor in all addictive behaviors.
Paper and Authors
Takuya Hayashi, Ji Hyun Ko, Antonio P. Strafella, Alain Dagher "Dorsolateral prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortex interactions during self-control of cigarette craving." PNAS January 2013, DOI:10.1073/pnas.1212185110
The research was reviewed at the Eureka Alert website the date of publication.