Scientists May Have Finally Figured Out What Causes Addiction In The Brain

( By examining long-term smokers who abruptly stopped after developing brain lesions, researchers claimed on Monday that they had identified the brain network associated with addiction.

They anticipate that the findings will provide a target for future treatments in the fight against addiction to various substances.

To determine where the brain addiction resides, researchers examined 129 patients who were daily smokers and had a brain lesion.

A recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that while more than half of smokers continued smoking as usual after developing a lesion, a quarter did so without any issues and even reported experiencing no cravings.

Even though the lesions in those who gave up smoking were not localized in a single area of the brain, they were mapped to various locations, which they termed the “addiction remission network.”

They discovered that the dorsal cingulate, lateral prefrontal cortex, and insula—but not the medial prefrontal cortex—would likely be affected by a lesion that would cause someone to overcome an addiction.

Previous studies have demonstrated that insula-related lesions are therapeutic for addiction. However, it neglected to account for additional brain regions that the latest study found.

The researchers looked at 186 lesion patients who had completed an alcohol risk assessment to verify their findings.

Lesions in the patients’ addiction remission network were discovered to lower the likelihood of alcoholism. This suggests a shared network for addiction across different kinds of abuse.

According to study author and neurologist Juho Joutsa of Finland’s University of Turku, the uncovered network offers a testable target for therapeutic efforts.

Some of the network’s hubs were situated in the cortex, which might be manipulated using non-invasive neuromodulation techniques.

Neuromodulation involves stimulating nerves. This month, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) coil as one method for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder. It already hits many of the same brain regions as the addiction remission network discovered in the study published on Monday.

Joutsa hoped his research would help develop a TMS coil that targets addiction.

The neurologist said that to test if targeting the network is clinically advantageous, he must determine the optimum approach to regulate this network and perform well structured, randomized, controlled studies.