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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 212-213  Table of Contents     

Cerebellar stimulation: A hypothetical therapeutic model for substance use disorders

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, KIMSDU, Karad, Satara, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication4-May-2016

Correspondence Address:
Ajish G Mangot
OPD 22, Department of Psychiatry, Krishna Hospital, KIMSDU, Karad, Satara, Maharashtra - 415 110
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-6748.181715

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How to cite this article:
Mangot AG, Murthy VS. Cerebellar stimulation: A hypothetical therapeutic model for substance use disorders. Ind Psychiatry J 2015;24:212-3

How to cite this URL:
Mangot AG, Murthy VS. Cerebellar stimulation: A hypothetical therapeutic model for substance use disorders. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Dec 6];24:212-3. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2015/24/2/212/181715


Substance use disorders (SUDs) hold a special position in psychiatry because their neurobiological and behavioral bases may be considered one of the best understood of all psychiatric disorders. Yet they can be frustrating to manage with a not so promising prognosis.[1] Recently, brain stimulation techniques such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) are increasingly considered a panacea for various neuropsychiatric disorders. Advances in neurobiological understanding, neuroimaging, and targeted neuromodulation techniques are allowing us to stimulate specific regions of interest in the brain with pinpoint precision. Recently, both methods have been tried for SUDs. DBS of nucleus accumbens and subthalamic nucleus have been found to have promising results.[2] Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is the other brain region targeted with rTMS for alcohol and other SUDs.[3]

However, the cerebellum has never been targeted by brain stimulation researchers for SUDs despite its role in nonmotor functions involving emotion, affect, and cognition has been recognized.[4] It has been widely studied for its dysfunction associated with chronic alcohol abuse. Recently, its role in the development of dependence has been elucidated. It has a role not only in the neurobiological underpinning of dependence but also in its behavioral conditioning.[5] Surprisingly, early research conducted, almost three decades ago, on animal brains had shown that cerebellar stimulation may modulate the functions of brainstem reticular nuclei and regions in the limbic and autonomic system, including hypothalamus, ventral tegmental area, periaqueductal gray, hippocampus, and amygdala.[6] Furthermore, recently, cerebellar vermal theta burst stimulation using rTMS has been found to be a safe and well-tolerated option for modulating affect, emotion, and cognition in refractory schizophrenia.[7] Patients with refractory motor epilepsy have also benefited with superomedial cerebellar cortical stimulation.[8]

Based on the above observations, we can hypothesize that cerebellar stimulation in alcohol/substance dependence syndromes could result in beneficial effects in three major domains:

  • Limbic/paralimbic modulation leading to release of neurotransmitters including dopamine may help in reducing craving and increasing salience of stimuli other than alcohol/substance
  • Frontal lobe modulation could improve the negative effect associated with drug withdrawal states, thereby reducing relapses. Its effect on the emotional and cognitive aspects may help in reducing impulsivity and improving attention toward other rewarding stimuli and judgment
  • Superomedial cerebellar cortical stimulation could help in reducing the incidence of withdrawal seizures and delirium, thereby significantly reducing the morbidity and mortality during acute detoxification stages.

Cerebellar stimulation, per se, using DBS and rTMS is not a new entity in the field of neuropsychiatry. Its effectiveness and safety profile have been demonstrated earlier. We recommend its usability in SUDs based on the above theoretical construct, wherein it could potentially have a wide range of effects from acute detoxification to chronic relapse prevention. Patient profile, treatment aspects, and risks with concurrent substance use require elucidation. Centers with adequate resources should seriously consider the option.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Maehira Y, Chowdhury EI, Reza M, Drahozal R, Gayen TK, Masud I, et al. Factors associated with relapse into drug use among male and female attendees of a three-month drug detoxification-rehabilitation programme in Dhaka, Bangladesh: A prospective cohort study. Harm Reduct J 2013;10:14.  Back to cited text no. 1
Pierce RC, Vassoler FM. Deep brain stimulation for the treatment of addiction: Basic and clinical studies and potential mechanisms of action. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2013;229:487-91.  Back to cited text no. 2
Bellamoli E, Manganotti P, Schwartz RP, Rimondo C, Gomma M, Serpelloni G. rTMS in the treatment of drug addiction: An update about human studies. Behav Neurol 2014;2014:815215.  Back to cited text no. 3
Siuda K, Chrobak AA, Starowicz-Filip A, Tereszko A, Dudek D. Emotional disorders in patients with cerebellar damage – Case studies. Psychiatr Pol 2014;48:289-97.  Back to cited text no. 4
Moulton EA, Elman I, Becerra LR, Goldstein RZ, Borsook D. The cerebellum and addiction: Insights gained from neuroimaging research. Addict Biol 2014;19:317-31.  Back to cited text no. 5
Alalade E, Denny K, Potter G, Steffens D, Wang L. Altered cerebellar-cerebral functional connectivity in geriatric depression. PLoS One 2011;6:e20035.  Back to cited text no. 6
Demirtas-Tatlidede A, Freitas C, Cromer JR, Safar L, Ongur D, Stone WS, et al. Safety and proof of principle study of cerebellar vermal theta burst stimulation in refractory schizophrenia. Schizophr Res 2010;124:91-100.  Back to cited text no. 7
Velasco F, Carrillo-Ruiz JD, Brito F, Velasco M, Velasco AL, Marquez I, et al. Double-blind, randomized controlled pilot study of bilateral cerebellar stimulation for treatment of intractable motor seizures. Epilepsia 2005;46:1071-81.  Back to cited text no. 8


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