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