Neuromodulation in Alcohol Dependence


Early stages of alcohol and drug problems, as well as later stages of addiction, are characterized by neurobiological changes: from abnormal motivational processing of drug cues in the brain’s reward circuitry in early stages of issues, to cognitive inflexibility and impulsivity related to other brain circuits (prefrontal and basal ganglia) in later stages of addiction. Both processes influence relapse in substance-related problems. So far, both processes have been studied separately within neurobiological addiction research. With the development of new research techniques, it becomes possible to study interactions and connectivity between different brain structures and functions, thus gaining new insights into interactions between motivational functions and cognitive (in)flexibility.

Research Objective

With a magnetic coil, it is possible to stimulate the brain from the outside. This is also called neuromodulation. At Jellinek, we investigate rTMS: repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). This allows us to influence brain activity from the outside and thus improve our understanding of the effects of rTMS on brain functions in substance dependence.

In a first project, we examined the effect of neurostimulation on emotion regulation. It was found that emotion regulation improved in people with alcohol problems after rTMS stimulation, compared to a placebo (sham) stimulation. Recently, a clinical trial has been completed in which we investigated whether rTMS in people undergoing clinical treatment for alcohol problems had an effect compared to clinical treatment alone (and placebo stimulation). This was a randomized clinical study.