Indiana University has released a new report showing that neuroimaging may be able to predict the relapse risks associated with a specific individual. According to the research neuroimaging can help physicians determine which individuals will be able to quit their substance abuse and which individuals are going to need extra support and assistance to be successful in this goal. The research study used a method called the Balloon Analog Risk Test, and the study subjects were asked to decide whether or not to add air to a balloon. Each time air is added there is a risk that the balloon will pop, and rewards are offered if this outcome is avoided. The individuals who tended to take the most risks when adding air were also determined to have the lowest brain activity. Increased brain activity resulted in the individual taking fewer risks instead.
Joshua Brown, Ph.D, is associated with the Indiana University Bloomington as an assistant professor with the university Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. According to Brown a deficient self regulatory control over decision making and behavior is a possible relapse cause. A reduction in the activity of this brain area can indicate that the individual is at a higher risk for relapse, and additional treatment resources may be needed for success and a full recovery from substance abuse. This study examines the many indicators of the ability of the brain to self regulate behavior when substance abuse is a factor. According to Joshua Brown “We can also see how brain activity changes as people recover from their addictions. Those who took greater risks were shown to have reduced brain activity while those who took less risk showed greater brain activity. After three months, those people who were successful in treatment also demonstrated a pattern of brain activation that coincided with the risk level of cues during the balloon task. In individuals who relapsed, risk-related activation was limited to certain brain regions, possibly signaling the anticipated reward rather than the risk of negative outcome.”