Neuroimaging Could Predict Relapse and Recovery
Researchers from Indiana University think they may have discovered a way to use neuroimaging to measure brain activity that could help doctors make predictions on which addicts are more likely to succeed in coming off drugs and which ones are more likely to relapse.
According to assistant professor Joshua Brown, neuroimaging allows them to see the changes in brain activity during recovery as well.
The study, undertaken by Brown and colleagues, looked at neurophysiological and cognitive indicators of self-regulatory ability in a cohort of addicts during the initial three months of treatment for their addictions.
Balloon Analog Risk Task
Participants were tested according to their "risk-taking inclinations" using a Balloon Analog Risk Task. A Balloon Analog Risk Task is a simple game in which participants choose to add air to a balloon, earning rewards as they do until it pops. The study shows that participants who allow the balloon to blow up until popping - and therefore assume greater risk - have a decrease in brain activity. Those who display less risk also display greater brain activity.
Initial findings indicate that after three months, risk level coincided not only with brain activity but also with treatment success.
Those who relapsed tended to be those who took the greater risks, and those who were successful in treatment were those who took less risk.
The potential consequence here is that different, more targeted resources might be diverted to each group in advance, with a view towards tackling the addiction and bringing the best and most effective treatment to each patient.