People with addictions to stimulants tend to choose instant gratification or a smaller but sooner reward over a future benefit, even if the future reward is greater. Reduced value of a future reward, called "delay discounting" by neuroscientists, is the major challenge for treatment of addiction.
A new study in the February 2011 (Vol. 69, Issue 3) Biological Psychiatry appears to present a strategy for increasing the value of future rewards in the minds of addicts.
"The hope is for a new intervention to help addicts," said Warren K. Bickel, professor and director of the Center for Substance Abuse at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute effective Feb 1. 2011. Bickel will also be a professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech.
Bickel did the research when he was the Wilbur D. Mills Chair of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Prevention and director of the Center for Addiction Research and the Center for the Study of Tobacco Addiction at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
"It is a major coup for us to be able to attract Dr. Bickel to the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Roanoke. He is a renowned research leader in understanding the strategies used by the human brain during addiction and his latest work is providing valuable new insights into potential therapeutic strategies for rehabilitating the addicted human brain," said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the research institute.
According to studies by Bickel and colleagues at the at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, consideration and value of the future overlap mental processes and brain regions associated with memory. The research team decided to test the possibility that increasing an individual's ability to remember would decrease the discounting of future events.
"In other words, we asked whether improved memory could result in a greater appreciation of a future reward," said Bickel.
The results of a series of experiments presented a happy answer. Yes. "A change in discounting resulted from reinforced working memory training," the researchers report. *
In this study, participants receiving treatment for their stimulant use received either experimental or control memory training. Experimental training consisted of working memory tasks with monetary reinforcement for performance – such as remembering a phone message and memorizing a list of words. Control Training consisted of the same tasks, but with answers provided so there was no memorization required. Experimental participants received monetary rewards for their performance and the control participants received monetary rewards independent of their performance.
The researchers believe the study may be the first to demonstrate that neurocognitive training of working memory can decrease delay discounting.
The research article reports, "These findings support the competing neurobehavioral decision systems hypothesis of addiction (that) decisions are made on the basis of two decision systems. One, referred to as the impulsive decision system, is embodied in the limbic and paralimbic brain regions and is associated with the acquisition of more immediate reinforcers. The other, referred to as the executive system, is embodied in the prefrontal cortex and is associated with planning and deferred outcome. According to this hypothesis, addiction results from a hyperactive impulsive system and a hypoactive executive decision system. … (O)ur observed decrease in the rate of discounting following working memory training is consistent with an increase in relative activation of the executive system."
The researchers conclude, "These changes in executive function are consistent with the notion of neuroplasticity and suggest that at least some of the neurocognitive deficits related to addiction might be reversible."
They suggest future research address the durability of memory training, the ceiling effects of training, and the extent of improvement in treatment outcome.
In the journal's Commentary, Bruce Wexler, of the Yale Department of Psychiatry, suggested the improvement in placing value on a future reward may be connected to the reward rather than working memory. He endorsed treatment strategies that strengthen normally occurring processes -- whether memory or the executive decision system -- rather than simply address symptomatic behavior directly. He wrote, "One goal of future studies will be to build on the valuable foundation provided by Bickel et al. in reporting the benefits of a (cognitive remediation treatment) approach for an addiction disorder. New studies should make explicit the cognitive process they aim to target—whether it is working memory, executive function more broadly, or control over financial reward— and include measures, as did Bickel et al., of the effects of treatment on the putative mediators. Future studies must also demonstrate reduction in the clinically problematic behavior to establish the value of the treatment."
*The article, "Remember the Future: Working Memory Training Decreases Delay Discounting Among Stimulant Addicts," by Bickel; Richard Yi of the Center for Addiction Research; Reid D. Landes of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; Paul F. Hill of the Center for Addiction Research, and Carole Baxter of the Recovery Centers of Arkansas. It is online at http://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/current/
Learn more about the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute at http://www.vtc.vt.edu/research/index.html
The Biological Psychiatry press release is posted at http://biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/content/press_releases
Susan Trulove | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine