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Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00600

Rewiring the Addicted Brain Through a Psychobiological Model of Physical Exercise

  • 1Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil
  • 2Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil

Drug addiction is a worldwide public health problem, resulting from multiple phenomena, including those both social and biological. Chronic use of psychoactive substances has been shown to induce structural and functional changes in the brain that impair cognitive control and favor compulsive seeking behavior. Physical exercise has been proven to improve brain function and cognition in both healthy and clinical populations. While some studies have demonstrated the potential benefits of physical exercise in treating and preventing addictive behaviors, few studies have investigated its cognitive and neurobiological contributions to drug-addicted brains. Here, we review studies in humans using cognitive behavioral responses and neuroimaging techniques, which reveal that exercise can be an effective auxiliary treatment for drug addictive disorders. Moreover, we describe the neurobiological mechanisms by which exercise-induced neuroplasticity in the prefrontal cortex improves executive functions and may decrease compulsive behaviors in individuals prone to substance use disorders. Finally, we propose an integrative cognitive-psychobiological model of exercise for use in future research in drug addiction and practical guidance in clinical settings.

Keywords: aerobic exercise, neuralplasticity., substance use disorder, Addiction, alcohol abuse, Prefrontal Cortex, cerebral adaptation, top-down bottom up processing

Received: 12 Feb 2019; Accepted: 29 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Alexander M. Baldacchino, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Ruben D. Baler, National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States
Flora Colledge, University of Basel, Switzerland  

Copyright: © 2019 Costa, Cabral, Hohl and Fontes. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Eduardo B. Fontes, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, 84030-900, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, eduardobfontes@gmail.com