Deep Brain Stimulation for Addictive Disorders—Where Are We Now?

Jason Yuen, Abbas Z. Kouzani, Michael Berk, Susannah J. Tye, Aaron E. Rusheen, Charles D. Blaha, Kevin E. Bennet, Kendall H. Lee, Hojin Shin, Jee Hyun Kim, Yoonbae Oh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the face of a global epidemic of drug addiction, neglecting to develop new effective therapies will perpetuate the staggering human and economic costs of substance use. This review aims to summarize and evaluate the preclinical and clinical studies of deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a novel therapy for refractory addiction, in hopes to engage and inform future research in this promising novel treatment avenue. An electronic database search (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane library) was performed using keywords and predefined inclusion criteria between 1974 and 6/18/2021 (registered on Open Science Registry). Selected articles were reviewed in full text and key details were summarized and analyzed to understand DBS’ therapeutic potential and possible mechanisms of action. The search yielded 25 animal and 22 human studies. Animal studies showed that DBS of targets such as nucleus accumbens (NAc), insula, and subthalamic nucleus reduces drug use and seeking. All human studies were case series/reports (level 4/5 evidence), mostly targeting the NAc with generally positive outcomes. From the limited evidence in the literature, DBS, particularly of the NAc, appears to be a reasonable last resort option for refractory addictive disorders. We propose that future research in objective electrophysiological (e.g., local field potentials) and neurochemical (e.g., extracellular dopamine levels) biomarkers would assist monitoring the progress of treatment and developing a closed-loop DBS system. Preclinical literature also highlighted the prefrontal cortex as a promising DBS target, which should be explored in human research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1193-1215
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Addiction
  • Animal models
  • Biomarkers
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neuropsychiatry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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