The Effect Of Aerobic Exercise On Brain And Cognitive Function In Individuals With Sud
Table 1 Studies investigating the effects of physical exercise on the brain and cognitive functions in individuals with substance use disorders.
Therefore, despite the limited amount of studies available in the literature so far, it is apparent that acute sessions of aerobic exercise decrease craving levels and seem to benefit cognitive and brain functions in these individuals. However, it could also be important to understand if regularly performed exercise may potentialize the acute benefits to the brain and cognition of individuals with SUD throughout weeks and months of exercise training. To date, only two studies have investigated the chronic effects of aerobic exercise in individuals with SUD using neurobiological and cognitive markers . In one study, methamphetamine users showed improved inhibitory control and greater activation of the ACC during an inhibition task after performing 3 months of moderate-intensity exercise for 30 min three times a week . Curiously, this pioneering work by Wang et al. did not report changes in cardiorespiratory fitness, which limited the association between the cardiorespiratory adaptations induced by exercise and improvements in brain and cognitive functioning. However, the results of a different pilot longitudinal study with polysubstance users showed that 3 months of aerobic exercise improved inhibitory control and was correlated with cardiorespiratory fitness improvements .
Physical Proof In Brain Scans
Not only do drugs and alcohol change the chemical milieu of the brain, but they also cause structural changes. Brain scans in drug-addicted individuals show that the flow of dopamine to different areas of the brain changes in individuals who misuse drugs. Dopamine flow is reduced in areas associated with decision-making and risk-taking behaviors. Dopamine levels also change in areas associated with feelings of pleasure, making it more likely that a person will take drugs again and again.
Studies have also found that parts of the brain that can potentially stimulate cravings are highly active in drug abusers. These changes explain why people with substance use disorders can relapse during or after addiction treatment. When exposed to triggers, the active areas can lead to strong drug cravings, increasing the likelihood of relapse.
Research has found that certain pathways in the brain are especially vulnerable to getting rewired in individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol. As a result of the rewiring, the individual is more likely to continue consuming illicit substances.
How Long Does It Take The Brain To Recover From Addiction
Alcohol and drugs affect the brains neurotransmitters and neural pathways. At the same time, the brain strives to maintain balance. As a result, when drugs and alcohol change the brains chemistry, the brain adapts. Once the adaptation becomes the norm, the brain will want to correct an imbalance when the drug is no longer present by taking the drug again. Over time, substance use disorder changes both the brains structure and how it functions.
The brain has billions of neurons, which connect via neural pathways. As children develop and learn, their brains create and change these pathways, a process known as neuroplasticity, with relative ease. At approximately age twenty-five, the brain has developed the majority of its neural pathways its plasticity is significantly reduced.
The brain uses neural pathways as efficiently as possible, allowing repetitive tasks to become automatic or habitual. The frequent use of the same circuits embeds them deeper into the brain, making it more difficult to alter their routes. Imagine dragging a scissors blade across cardboard along the same line over and over the groove gets more pronounced. Fortunately, the brain is more flexible than cardboard. Although adults need more time and effort to change neural pathways than a child does, adults can change their brains.
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How Dopamine Is Affected By Drug Use
To understand why resetting the brains dopamine balance after addiction is so critical, you must first understand how the brain is affected by drug use.
Neurons are brain cells, and neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send signals and other messages back and forth through those cells. These messages help to carry out functions of both the brain and body.
Dopamine is a critical neurotransmitter responsible for identifying experiences of pleasure, and in turn, motivating pleasure-seeking behavior. Subjective experiences of pleasure help the brain identify and reinforce behavior. A healthy, sober brain is likely to motivate behaviors such as eating, socializingand the most dopamine-releasing actionsex.
Dopamine is not the only neurotransmitter involved in recognizing pleasure. Dopamine is just one of the many neurotransmitters involved in the brains reward circuit, which is a combination of structures and chemicals that control and regulate our ability to experience pleasure. When it comes to drug use, an excessive amount of dopamine is released throughout the body, which the conscious brain identifies as contentment and euphoria. These intense experiences of euphoria are what drive repeated drug use behavior.
Functions Of The Prefrontal Cortex:
Compared to other primates, humans possess a well developed prefrontal region. In charge of abstract thinking and analysis, it is also responsible for regulating behavior. This includes mediating conflicting thoughts, making choices between right and wrong, and predicting the probable outcomes of actions or events. This brain area also governs social control, such as suppressing emotional or sexual urges. Since the prefrontal cortex is the brain center responsible for taking in data through the bodys senses and deciding on actions, it is most strongly implicated in human qualities like consciousness, general intelligence, and personality.
The tasks our prefrontal cortex perform are referred to as executive functions:
- Abstract thinking
Simply put, addiction-related hypofrontality is a decline in executive functioning, which manifests as:
- Impaired decision-making arising from direct interference with reasoning, logic, and the ability to weigh consequences.
- Drives, impulses, and craving are not inhibited because of direct compromise of brain-reasoning ability.
- The mind overvalues reward, fails to appreciate risk, and fails to activate systems that warn of impending danger.
- The mind misjudges using ones addiction as worth it by being unable to appreciate adverse consequences.
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What Happens To The Brain After Relapse
As you become addicted, your brain demands more and more of the drug to get that same feeling. In fact, at some point, if you don’t use the substance, you may feel worse. Brain scans also show that changes in your brain after addiction can make you less able to use self-control and good judgement…. see more
Hypofrontality And Rewiring Your Brain
Another aspect of the rewiring process involves strengthening your executive control, which resides in your prefrontal cortex . Assessing risk, making long-range plans, and controlling impulses are under the control of the prefrontal cortex. The term hypofrontality is often used when describing how addictions weaken and inhibit these self-control circuits. It takes time, and consistency, to return these circuits to full working order.
A few resources:
- Two research reviews by the head of NIDA Drug Addiction and Its Underlying Neurobiological Basis: Neuroimaging Evidence for the Involvement of the Frontal Cortex and Addiction: Decreased reward sensitivity and increased expectation sensitivity conspire to overwhelm the brains control circuit
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Neuroplasticity And Addiction Recovery
We used to think that the brain, once damaged, could not repair itself. Breakthroughs in neuroscience have shown that this is not true.
Though individual neurons might be damaged beyond repair, the brain attempts to heal itself when damaged by making new connections or new neural pathways as workarounds for the damage. This is called neuroplasticity, coming from “neuro” and “plasticity” .
What does neuroplasticity mean for addiction treatment?
When we develop a habit, the brain creates a path in itself in support of that habit. As we engage in the habit over and over again, the pathway becomes well-worn or stronger. This is similar to lifting a weight. If you lift a weight over and over, the muscle will get stronger.
In many ways, addiction can be explained as a neuroplastic event. The brain gets trained to do a particular behavioruse drugs or alcohol or gamblingeventually to the exclusion of all else. But in treatment, we can retrain the brain, that is, develop a new pathway that supports recovery.
With intensive psychotherapy and other holistic interventions, we strengthen the new recovery loop within the brain. The brain then learns to enjoy recovery, those things that give us pleasure in our sober livesfamily, work, interpersonal interactions. We retrain the brain and thus change our lives.
How does the brains function have a role in relapse?
What, then, is interpersonal neurobiology?
What Do Brain Scans Of Addicted People Show
Though addiction can display itself in many different ways, from physical changes to behavioral responses, brain imaging and scans can also find signs of addiction in the brain itself.
Researchers who study how addiction changes the brain have found clear markers of addiction within brain chemistry and structure. Using technology like magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography scans, medical professionals can see inside the inner workings of the brain, both with an addictive state and without.
These scans show us that several different regions and pathways within the brain are affected by addiction. From an increase in neurotransmitters like dopamine to reduced or increased activity in particular brain regions, addiction has a direct impact on the brains structure, functioning, and health.
- A 2009 study published in the journal Neuropharmacology used PET scans to show the flow of dopamine to different regions of the brain in individuals who misused drugs. When researchers followed the dopamine through the brain, they found that dopamine levels were lower in parts of the brain that controlled repetitive or risk-taking behavior and decision making. Dopamine also affected areas of the brain that associated drug-taking with pleasure and stimulation, making it more likely the individual would take drugs again.
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Our Brains: The Science Behind Addiction
Many people seek drugs to escape to a happier place. Although its temporary, an addict may feel like that is their only way to get away from the pain they feel day-to-day. A brain on hard drugs is overcome with an abundance of chemicals dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, glutamate, and adrenaline. With a single drug hit, you can feel like you just won the lottery.
Reproducing this feeling in our daily lives is a little bit of a different story. Feeling happiness can be a tamer, more controlled feeling. Its hard to replicate that kind of overflowing chemical excitement in our normal worlds. This is how chemical dependency often starts.
The more you light up the reward pathways, the more your brain demands that you do little else. You are no longer in the drivers seat. The brains pleasure centers do the talking and give the orders.
Sigmund Freud states how Anatomy is destiny. The pleasure centers of the brain are areas many people arent too familiar with. Examples include the ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex. These names may be new to youHowever, they are major parts of your daily functioning. Especially when it comes to substance abuse.
Heres the upside. The brain also has a built-in override system, the frontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that makes a person moral and humane. The catch is that the frontal cortex needs regular maintenance. You can train this part of the brain to help you.
Choosing The Right Online Therapy Service For You
When choosing the right online therapy platform, there are several important factors to compare.
Cost – Compare plans to find one that offers the most important features and benefits for you at the least cost. Are video calls included? Do you have unlimited messaging? Will your insurance cover your sessions or is there financial aid available?
Features – Compare main features, such as video chat and end-to-end encrypted messaging, and also supplementary features, like journaling and mental health resources.
Privacy – Online therapy isnt as tightly regulated as other telehealth services. Some providers share certain data with third parties, like Facebook. Do some research online to see what kind of information is being collected and shared.
Communication – Do you prefer text messages or voice calls? What about video calls? Can you message your therapist at any time? Is there a smartphone app?
Ease of use – You’ll likely use this app frequently and over a long period. Make sure its easy to use and understand and that user support is available if you need it.
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Neurobiology Of Mindfulness Meditation
Contemplative neuroscience is an emerging field encompassing research on the neurobiology of mindfulness meditation and other contemplative practices . Our review focuses specifically on mindfulness meditation as it is incorporated into MBRP, based on practices from the Vipassana tradition, and largely based on the related treatments of MBSR and MBCT . We focus our review on studies that have focused on either brain structure or functional changes in response to mindfulness practice. For a general discussion on the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation, we direct the reader to a recent review by Hölzel and colleagues .
Can Artificial Sweeteners Help
Some studies suggest artificial sweeteners may leave you craving more sugar. That could make it harder to control your weight. The problem is, some experts say, that artificial sweeteners don’t help you break your taste for sweets. Pay attention to your body. Are sweeteners making you crave even more sugar? If so, look elsewhere for that sweet taste.
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Addicted To Reward The Power Of Dopamine And How We Can Retrain Our Brain
Our brain is our most valuable tool and yet 21st century living seems intent on making it redundant. Most things arrive at the touch of a button fast food, shopping, even potential relationships. Add to that the stress of working to pay for all of the above), competition and feelings of lack as we pursue the hedonistic treadmill in the chase for momentary pleasure and it is no wonder our mental, emotional and physical health is suffering.
Modern day success
Add to this the broad stroke that were really no longer taught to seek lifelong fulfilment but rather success set out by a defined set of criterion namely what is popular or praised at the momentor what our school wants us to achieve. There is little focus on building inner values in education because it is more important to win, to have power, to succeed within a defined framework.
BUT, that framework is competitive, not everyone can win, and so often our efforts are not recognised until they place us at the topor at the bottom!!
Thus we have a perfect storm for addiction to reward.
The brain wants to feel comfortable because discomfort can be interpreted as a threat. BUT the easiest form of comfort is stimulating the reward centrethe mesolimbic dopamine system.
Recent research has suggested that dopamine, rather than being a “pleasure” centre, is more a “reward centre” (yes it gives us a sense of pleasure, but it’s working out the behaviours that are “rewarding” and thus need to be repeated.
Benefits Of Online Therapy
- Convenience. Rather than making your way to a therapists office, you can send text or voice messages or speak in real-time via audio or video calls from the comfort of your own home, at a time that suits you. For people with reduced mobility or those living in rural areas, online counseling is a real boon.
- Choice of therapist. Your choice of an in-person therapist is limited by geography. With online therapy, you can choose from hundreds of qualified therapists, each with their own specialization, therapeutic approach, communication style, and schedule, giving you more options to find the right fit.
- Communication. You get to choose what works best for you: text messaging, audio messages, or voice or video calls. Most teletherapy plans include unlimited messaging, so you can communicate your thoughts and feelings at any time, which in and of itself can be therapeutic.
- Price. As youll see below, online counseling is typically much less expensive than in-person therapy.
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Training Our Subconscious Brain
A relatively new form of brain training that directly targets cognitive biases is showing promising results in treating alcohol use disorders.
Cognitive bias modification is a computerised brain-training program that trains people to repeatedly avoid alcohol-related cues, and to approach neutral or positive ones.
Using a joystick, the user repeatedly pushes away pictures of alcohol, and pulls healthier alternatives, such as bottled water, towards them. By practising this over and over again, the avoidance of alcohol cues becomes automatic, thereby disabling the autopilot response to these cues.
Cognitive bias modification is delivered in several residential rehabilitation facilities in Germany, where its recommended in treatment guidelines.
Its not yet available in Australia.
Key Points To Understand The Brain And Addiction:
1. Some characteristics of addiction are similar to other chronic diseases.
Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and changes its functioning, addiction changes the brain and impairs the way it works. Below is an image of the brain and the heart .
These images show how scientists can use imaging technology to measure functioning of the brain and heart. Greater activity is shown in reds and yellows, and reduced activity is shown in blues and purples. Both the healthy brain and the healthy heart show greater activity than the diseased brain and heart, because both addiction and heart disease cause changes in function. In drug addiction, the frontal cortex in particular shows less activity. This is the part of the brain associated with judgment and decision-making .
Addiction is similar to other chronic diseases in the following ways:
- It is preventable
- If untreated, it can last a lifetime
2. Substances of misuse trick the brains reward system.
Below is a picture of the brain and the nucleus accumbens, in addition to some other brain regions that are affected by addition.
The brains nucleus accumbens activated by alcohol
Addictive drugs can provide a shortcut to the brains reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. Additionally, addictive drugs can release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do, and they do it more quickly and reliably.
3. The brain can recover but it takes time!
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