What goes up, can come down: Novel brain stimulation paradigms may attenuate craving and craving-related neural circuitry in substance dependent individuals

Colleen A. Hanlon, Logan T. Dowdle, Christopher W. Austelle, William Devries, Oliver Mithoefer, Bashar W. Badran, Mark S. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Vulnerability to drug related cues is one of the leading causes for continued use and relapse among substance dependent individuals. Using drugs in the face of cues may be associated with dysfunction in at least two frontal-striatal neural circuits: (1) elevated activity in medial and ventral areas that govern limbic arousal (including the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and ventral striatum) or (2) depressed activity in dorsal and lateral areas that govern cognitive control (including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and dorsal striatum). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is emerging as a promising new tool for the attenuation of craving among multiple substance dependent populations. To date however, nearly all repetitive TMS studies in addiction have focused on amplifying activity in frontal-striatal circuits that govern cognitive control. This manuscript reviews recent work using TMS as a tool to decrease craving for multiple substances and provides a theoretical model for how clinical researchers might approach target and frequency selection for TMS of addiction. To buttress this model, preliminary data from a single-blind, sham-controlled, crossover study of 11 cocaine-dependent individuals is also presented. These results suggest that attenuating MPFC activity through theta burst stimulation decreases activity in the striatum and anterior insula. It is also more likely to attenuate craving than sham TMS. Hence, while many TMS studies are focused on applying LTP-like stimulation to the DLPFC, the MPFC might be a new, efficacious, and treatable target for craving in cocaine dependent individuals. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI:Addiction circuits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-209
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Dec 2 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This effort was funded directly by NIH Grants K01DA027756 (Hanlon), R01DA036617 (Hanlon), P50 DA015369 (Kalivas), P50 AA010761 (Becker). Additional assistance was given by the South Carolina Translational Research Institute UL1 TR000062 and R25 DA033680. The authors would also like to acknowledge the Neuroscience Institute at the Medical University of South Carolina, the Neurobiology of Addiction Research Center, the Center for Biomedical Imaging, Truman R. Brown, Jayce Doose, James Purl, Melanie Canterberry, and Kathleen Brady, all of whom provided intellectual support and resources for this endeavor.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Published by Elsevier B.V.


  • BA 10
  • Brain stimulation
  • Caudate
  • Functional MRI
  • Orbitofrontal cortex


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