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Reviews in the Neurosciences

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Volume 22, Issue 6 (Dec 2011)


Neuroimaging for drug addiction and related behaviors

Muhammad A. Parvaz
  • Medical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 30 Bell Ave., Bldg. 490, Upton, NY 11973-5000, USA
/ Nelly Alia-Klein
  • Medical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 30 Bell Ave., Bldg. 490, Upton, NY 11973-5000, USA
/ Patricia A. Woicik
  • Medical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 30 Bell Ave., Bldg. 490, Upton, NY 11973-5000, USA
/ Nora D. Volkow
  • National Institute of Drug Abuse, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
/ Rita Z. Goldstein
  • Medical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 30 Bell Ave., Bldg. 490, Upton, NY 11973-5000, USA
  • Email:
Published Online: 2011-11-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/RNS.2011.055


In this review, we highlight the role of neuroimaging techniques in studying the emotional and cognitive-behavioral components of the addiction syndrome by focusing on the neural substrates subserving them. The phenomenology of drug addiction can be characterized by a recurrent pattern of subjective experiences that includes drug intoxication, craving, bingeing, and withdrawal with the cycle culminating in a persistent preoccupation with obtaining, consuming, and recovering from the drug. In the past two decades, imaging studies of drug addiction have demonstrated deficits in brain circuits related to reward and impulsivity. The current review focuses on studies employing positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and electroencephalography (EEG) to investigate these behaviors in drug-addicted human populations. We begin with a brief account of drug addiction followed by a technical account of each of these imaging modalities. We then discuss how these techniques have uniquely contributed to a deeper understanding of addictive behaviors.

Keywords: dopamine; electroencephalography (EEG); event-related potentials (ERPs); magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); positron emission tomography (PET); prefrontal cortex

About the article

Corresponding author

Received: 2011-11-03

Accepted: 2011-11-05

Published Online: 2011-11-25

Published in Print: 2011-12-01

Citation Information: Reviews in the Neurosciences, ISSN (Online) 2191-0200, ISSN (Print) 0334-1763, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/RNS.2011.055. Export Citation

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