Cognitive interventions for addiction medicine: Understanding the underlying neurobiological mechanisms

Anna Zilverstand, Muhammad A. Parvaz, Scott J. Moeller, Rita Z. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Neuroimaging provides a tool for investigating the neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive interventions in addiction. The aim of this review was to describe the brain circuits that are recruited during cognitive interventions, examining differences between various treatment modalities while highlighting core mechanisms, in drug addicted individuals. Based on a systematic Medline search we reviewed neuroimaging studies on cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive inhibition of craving, motivational interventions, emotion regulation, mindfulness, and neurofeedback training in addiction. Across intervention modalities, common results included the normalization of aberrant activity in the brain's reward circuitry, and the recruitment and strengthening of the brain's inhibitory control network. Results suggest that different cognitive interventions act, at least partly, through recruitment of a common inhibitory control network as a core mechanism. This implies potential transfer effects between training modalities. Overall, results confirm that chronically hypoactive prefrontal regions implicated in cognitive control in addiction can be normalized through cognitive means.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-304
Number of pages20
JournalProgress in Brain Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • CBT
  • Cognitive control
  • EEG
  • Emotion regulation
  • FMRI
  • Neurofeedback
  • Psychotherapy
  • Substance use disorders
  • Training
  • Treatment


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