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Mol Psychiatry. 2012 Jun;17(6):572-83. doi: 10.1038/mp.2011.114. Epub 2011 Sep 20.

Deep brain stimulation in addiction: a review of potential brain targets.

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Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an adjustable, reversible, non-destructive neurosurgical intervention using implanted electrodes to deliver electrical pulses to areas in the brain. DBS is currently investigated in psychiatry for the treatment of refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome and depressive disorder. Although recent research in both animals and humans has indicated that DBS may be an effective intervention for patients with treatment-refractory addiction, it is not yet entirely clear which brain areas should be targeted. The objective of this review is to provide a systematic overview of the published literature on DBS and addiction and outline the most promising target areas using efficacy and adverse event data from both preclinical and clinical studies. We found 7 animal studies targeting six different brain areas: nucleus accumbens (NAc), subthalamic nucleus (STN), dorsal striatum, lateral habenula, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and hypothalamus, and 11 human studies targeting two different target areas: NAc and STN. Our analysis of the literature suggests that the NAc is currently the most promising DBS target area for patients with treatment-refractory addiction. The mPFC is another promising target, but needs further exploration to establish its suitability for clinical purposes. We conclude the review with a discussion on translational issues in DBS research, medical ethical considerations and recommendations for clinical trials with DBS in patients with addiction.

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