Meta-analyses of neural correlates of reward processing in addiction

AIM: One of the key findings on the neuropathology of addictive behaviors is the dysfunction of so-called brain reward pathways. In the past decade researchers have intensively studied reward processing in individuals showing addictive behaviors, by investigating brain reactivity to non-drug rewards using fMRI. Many individual fMRI studies, however are underpowerd and the directionality of the results has been largely inconsistent, with some studies showing hypo- and others hyper-activation or no difference in VS activation between individuals with addictive behaviors compared to healthy controls. These conflicting results regarding reward processing in addiction have been interpreted in the context of three dominant, but largely incompatible theories, known as the reward deficiency syndrome, the impulsivity hypothesis, and the incentive salience theory.


In order to resolve these inconsistent findings and to contribute to refined theory development regaring reward processing in addiction, we performed an “image-based” meta-analysis, using group T-maps from individual studies as input. Combined, the selected studies included 643 individuals showing addictive behaviors and 609 healthy controls.

COLLABORATORS: Maartje Luijten, Guillaume Sescousse (Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University), Arnt Schellekens (Radboud University Medical Centre, department of Psychiatry, Simone Kühn (Max Plank Institute for Human Development), and Marise Machielse (Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam).

Luijten, M., Schellekens, A.F., Kühn, S., Machielse, M.W.J., Sescousse, G. (2017). Disruption of reward processing in addiction: An image-based meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies, JAMA Psychiatry, 74(4), 387-398. PDF SM

FUNDING: This project is supported by NWO Veni Grant’s for Guillaume Sescousse, Arnt Schellekens and Maartje Luijten.