Neurocognitive interventions based on network neuroscience may break the cycle of drug addiction relapse


  • Kavinash Loganathan Center for Intelligent Signal & Imaging, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Perak, Malaysia.
  • Eric Tatt Wei Ho (1) Center for Intelligent Signal & Imaging and (2) Department of Electrical & Electronics Engineering, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Perak, Malaysia.



addiction relapse, network neuroscience, cognitive intervention, pharmacological substitution therapy, drug addiction


In Malaysia, abstinence-centric programs failed to reduce drug use and stem the spread of HIV. The Malaysian government shifted its focus to implement harm reduction strategies with methadone maintenance therapy (MMT), in particular proving to be effective in improving the overall health and well-being of people who inject drugs (PWIDs). Despite this success, MMT retention rates remain low, as methadone is only able to stall drug consumption, but not stop it completely. Neuroimaging research revealed that PWIDs enrolled in MMT still display addictive behavior, including drug cue sensitivity, craving, and withdrawal, despite treatment adherence. Brain activity amongst treated PWIDs continues to bear similarities to untreated individuals, as they struggle with cognitive impairments and poor self-control. Findings from the emerging field of network neuroscience could provide fresh insight into the mechanics of addiction, especially the impact of substance abuse on brain-wide cognitive networks. Concurrently, the development of non-intrusive cognitive interventions, such as neurofeedback and transcranial magnetic stimulation, shows promise to reprogram a person's patterns of brain activity, including those regulated by large-scale networks, to a state resembling normalcy. We highlight the importance of relapse in the life-long rehabilitation of substance abuse. The lack of treatment options to handle relapse after successful harm-reduction policies is due to the absence of a conceptual framework to reason about interventions. We review recent research in the new field of network neuroscience, which suggests that altered brain activity due to drug addiction underlies the propensity for relapse and that this dysfunction is not addressed in drug rehabilitation programs. We hypothesize that non-invasive, non-pharmacological cognitive interventions based on network neuroscience to correct brain activity dysfunction associated with addiction are potential therapies to treat drug addiction relapse. In complement with medicine-substitution-based therapies, we hope this approach will finally break the cycle of addiction.


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How to Cite

Loganathan, K. and Ho, E. T. W. (2020) “Neurocognitive interventions based on network neuroscience may break the cycle of drug addiction relapse”, Neuroscience Research Notes, 3(2), pp. 15–22. doi: 10.31117/neuroscirn.v3i2.48.



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