About this Research Topic
A central paradox in addiction is the difficulty to control the urge to use, despite awareness of the negative consequences associated with it. Addiction models from different fields agree in terms of stressing the importance of an imbalance between drug-oriented motivational processes and compromised cognitive control (disinhibition) in the development of addiction. Trough repeated drug use the brain is thought to become extremely sensitive towards drug-related cues like objects, contexts, and emotional states. Indeed, the extensive literature on cue-reactivity indicates that drug-related cues bias motivational processes towards substance use as they increase subjective craving, automatically capture attention, activate approach tendencies, and are both implicitly and explicitly evaluated as more arousing and positive in comparison to neutral cues. These processes appear to be common for various drugs of abuse including heroin, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and cannabis. Moreover, higher levels of substance use and severity of dependence tend to be associated with stronger cue-reactivity, although not consistently over studies. The link between biased motivational processes and continued substance use is further supported by studies indicating that cue-reactivity could predict treatment outcome and relapse. Finally, it has been shown that heavy drinkers and alcohol-dependent patients can be retrained to avoid alcohol, which leads to improved treatment outcome in alcohol-dependent patients.
Although these findings support an important role for biased motivational processes in the development and maintenance of addiction and the potential of changing motivational processes in the treatment of addiction, some important issues remain unclear:
• Mechanisms underlying motivational biases. Are motivational biases goal directed actions or more habitual? What is the influence of (emotional) context and drug intoxication on the expression of these processes? What are the underlying neurobiological mechanisms?
• Relationship between different motivational processes. To what extent do the different processes (i.e., like craving, attention bias, approach bias measure the same underlying construct?
• Role of motivational processes in drug use versus abuse and dependence. At which stage do motivational biases develop? Do motivational biases still guide behaviour in addicted individuals?
• Commonalities and differences in motivational processes between different addictions.
• Changing motivational processes in treatment for addiction. This includes methods like neuromodulation (rTMS, tDCS), pharmacotherapy, and neuropsychological tasks.
The goal of this research topic is to collect and review knowledge regarding the motivational mechanisms underlying drug use, abuse, and addiction. What moves the addict and how can we use this information to move the addict away from drug use? We welcome original research papers on human as well as animal work, methodological papers, and review papers.
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