Professor Rainer Spanagel

Journal Editor

Rainer Spanagel is Professor and Director at the Institute of Psychopharmacology at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, where he is running eight work groups focused on animal experimental and translational research into alcohol and drug addiction, and other comorbid psychiatric disorders. The objective of the institute is to study the neurobiological long-term consequences of drug abuse and binge drinking in adolescents, to identify risk factors for addiction disorders, and to develop new behavioral therapies and pharmacological interventions for addicted patients. Since 2005 he is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Addiction Biology and since 2012, Editor of In Silico Pharmacology.

Overlapping neuronal substrates of reactivity to drug, gambling, food and sexual cues: a comprehensive meta-analysis

Rainer Spanagel, Alejandro Cosa Linan, Hamid R. Noori*,

Institute of Psychopharmacology, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Background: Cue reactivity to natural and social rewards is essential for motivational behavior. However, cue reactivity to drug rewards can also elicit craving in addicted subjects. The degree to which drug and natural rewards share neural substrates is not known. The objective of this study is to conduct a comprehensive meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies on drug, gambling and natural stimuli (food and sex) to identify the common and distinct neural substrates of cue reactivity to drug and natural rewards.

Methods: Neural cue reactivity studies were selected for the meta-analysis by means of activation likelihood estimations, followed by sensitivity and clustering analyses of averaged neuronal response patterns.

Findings: Data from 176 studies (5573 individuals) suggests largely overlapping neural response patterns towards all tested reward modalities. Common cue reactivity to natural and drug rewards was expressed by bilateral neural responses within anterior cingulate gyrus, insula, caudate head, inferior frontal gyrus, middle frontal gyrus and cerebellum. However, drug cues also generated distinct activation patterns in medial frontal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, posterior cingulate gyrus, caudate body and putamen. Natural reward cues induced unique activation of the pulvinar in thalamus; especially for sexual cues.

Interpretation: Neural substrates of cue reactivity to alcohol, drugs of abuse, food, sex and gambling are largely overlapping and comprise a network that processes emotional responses, habit formation and reward. This suggests that cue-mediated craving involves mechanisms that are not exclusive for addictive disorders but rather resemble the intersection of information pathways for processing emotional responses, non-declarative memory and obsessive-compulsive behavior.

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