three-month mark, and of those, eight maintained abstinent at the six-month mark. Researchers found that those who relapsed at 30 days post-discharge were less educated and had a longer history of smoking than the non-relapse participants.
Researchers found that participants who didn’t relapse showed heightened connectivity between portions of the ECN and enhanced connectivity between the left ECN and portions of the SN. They also showed strong connectivity between the right ECN and the left ECN.
Of the 12 individuals who were abstinent for three-to-six months, nine returned for a follow-up scan. Researchers found that those who were abstinent at day 30 “continued to exhibit significantly enhanced connectivity” between several regions in the brain.
The study provided insight in how relapse can be predicted and prevented. Connectivity between large-scale cortical networks, which have been implicated in craving, and executive control “could serve as markers of relapse risk” and could be seen as targets for treatment.
An important question that was raised during the experiment was whether or not the dynamics of the ECN can be manipulated in order to affect the risk of relapse. Techniques such as stimulation of certain regions of the brain along with psychological interventions could be used to test this theory, researchers stated.
“This speaks to our earlier point that relapse is a multi-faceted construct likely involving a myriad of distinct neural circuits,” they wrote.