Hypothesis & Theory ARTICLE

Front. Psychiatry, 19 December 2013 |

A computational hypothesis for allostasis: delineation of substance dependence, conventional therapies, and alternative treatments

  • 1School of Computer Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA
  • 2Recanati Faculty of Management, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
  • 3Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
  • 4Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA
  • 5Neuroscience and Behavior Program, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA

www.frontiersin.orgThe allostatic theory of drug abuse describes the brain’s reward system alterations as substance misuse progresses. Neural adaptations arising from the reward system itself and from the antireward system provide the subject with functional stability, while affecting the person’s mood. We propose a computational hypothesis describing how a virtual subject’s drug consumption, cognitive substrate, and mood interface with reward and antireward systems. Reward system adaptations are assumed interrelated with the ongoing neural activity defining behavior toward drug intake, including activity in the nucleus accumbens, ventral tegmental area, and prefrontal cortex (PFC). Antireward system adaptations are assumed to mutually connect with higher-order cognitive processes occurring within PFC, orbitofrontal cortex, and anterior cingulate cortex. The subject’s mood estimation is a provisional function of reward components. The presented knowledge repository model incorporates pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, neuropsychological, cognitive, and behavioral components. Patterns of tobacco smoking exemplify the framework’s predictive properties: escalation of cigarette consumption, conventional treatments similar to nicotine patches, and alternative medical practices comparable to meditation. The primary outcomes include an estimate of the virtual subject’s mood and the daily account of drug intakes. The main limitation of this study resides in the 21 time-dependent processes which partially describe the complex phenomena of drug addiction and involve a large number of parameters which may underconstrain the framework. Our model predicts that reward system adaptations account for mood stabilization, whereas antireward system adaptations delineate mood improvement and reduction in drug consumption. This investigation provides formal arguments encouraging current rehabilitation therapies to include meditation-like practices along with pharmaceutical drugs and behavioral counseling.

Keywords: drug addition, allostasis, reward system adaptations, antireward system adaptations, mood, drug intake prediction, multiscale computational model, knowledge repository model

Citation: Levy YZ, Levy DJ, Barto AG and Meyer JS (2013) A computational hypothesis for allostasis: delineation of substance dependence, conventional therapies, and alternative treatments. Front. Psychiatry 4:167. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00167

Received: 26 June 2013; Accepted: 30 November 2013;
Published online: 19 December 2013.

Edited by:

Lorenzo Leggio, National Institutes of Health, USA

Reviewed by:

Primavera Alessandra Spagnolo, National Institutes of Health, USA
Georgiy Bobashev, RTI International, USA

Copyright: © 2013 Levy, Levy, Barto and Meyer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Yariv Z. Levy, School of Computer Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 140 Governors Drive, Amherst, MA 01003-9264, USA e-mail: