The Insula: A Brain Stimulation Target for the Treatment of Addiction

Christine Ibrahim, Dafna S. Rubin-Kahana, Abhiram Pushparaj, Martin Musiol, Daniel M. Blumberger, Zafiris J. Daskalakis, Abraham Zangen, Bernard Le Foll

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Substance use disorders (SUDs) are a growing public health concern with only a limited number of approved treatments. However, even approved treatments are subject to limited efficacy with high long-term relapse rates. Current treatment approaches are typically a combination of pharmacotherapies and behavioral counselling. Growing evidence and technological advances suggest the potential of brain stimulation techniques for the treatment of SUDs. There are three main brain stimulation techniques that are outlined in this review: transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and deep brain stimulation (DBS). The insula, a region of the cerebral cortex, is known to be involved in critical aspects underlying SUDs, such as interoception, decision making, anxiety, pain perception, cognition, mood, threat recognition, and conscious urges. This review focuses on both the preclinical and clinical evidence demonstrating the role of the insula in addiction, thereby demonstrating its promise as a target for brain stimulation. Future research should evaluate the optimal parameters for brain stimulation of the insula, through the use of relevant biomarkers and clinical outcomes for SUDs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number720
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2019


  • addiction
  • brain stimulation
  • deep brain stimulation (DBS)
  • insula
  • transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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