Linking the Brain to Daily Life Symptoms of Addiction
Substance use disorders are prevalent forms of mental illness that have severe consequences for affected individuals and the broader society. The chronic nature of these conditions is explained in large part by the interaction of psychological and brain-based processes that imprison the individual in a long-term cycle of remission and relapse. Based on innovative technology using smartphones, we are now able to track these psychological processes in real-time and in everyday environments. Such studies have improved understanding for how psychological processes precipitate relapse, but far less is known about how these factors are reflected in the brain. We aim to bridge this gap by examining potential cerebral markers that are linked to craving and substance use in daily life. To do so, we will examine how these psychological factors are associated with the integrity of fiber tracts connecting brain areas (i.e., white matter). This study will be the first to link the highly dynamic daily experience of substance use disorders to these stable markers of brain health. Our hope is that this transdisciplinary approach will lead not only to a better understanding of the etiology of these disorders but also to new treatment and prevention strategies.