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Craving - Identification With Functional Brain Imaging

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Published On: July 25, 2001          Updated On: April 13, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Craving - Identification With Functional Brain Imaging

By D. W. Hommer DW.

Section of Brain Electrophysiology and Imaging, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

To visualize brain activity associated with mental states, such as craving for alcohol and other drugs (AODs), researchers have begun to use functional imaging techniques. Three commonly used techniques are:

·      Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)

·      Positron Emission Tomography (PET), and 

·      Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). 

Studies using these three approaches have been reviewed in order to evaluate the validity of a proposed model of the brain regions involved in alcoholism and the craving for alcohol. 

This model suggests a central role for a connected group of brain regions that include:

·     Basal Ganglia

·     Thalamus

·      Orbital Cortex

A study using SPECT technology in alcoholics, however, found altered brain activity in only some of those regions during craving. 

Additional studies in alcoholics, as well as cocaine users, identified several other brain regions whose activities appeared to change in response to craving. 

These studies have led to the development of a revised model of brain regions involved in craving for Alcohol & Other Drugs (AODs). 

Numerous questions remain, however, that must be answered before the brain areas involved in craving can be identified conclusively.

Reference:  Alcohol Res Health 1999;23(3):187-96

Comparison of two female subjects who had volumetric MRIs 
created in a GE 1.5 Tesla MRI machine

Other Articles On Craving

Alcohol & The Brain
Cocaine Addiction Links Between Genetics & Social Status
Craving - Identification With Functional Brain Imaging 010725
Medications for Alcoholism Treatment
Neural Activity & Craving
Neuroimaging & Alcohol Craving
New Study On  Cocaine Craving
Scientific American Article On Alcoholism 8-13-01


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