In Addiction, Meditation Is Helpful When Coupled With Drug, Cognitive Therapies

Dec. 19, 2013 — 
Science Daily/University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Using a computational model of addiction, a literature review and an in silico experiment, theoretical computer scientist Yariv Levy and colleagues suggest in a new paper this week that rehabilitation strategies coupling meditation-like practices with drug and behavior therapies are more helpful than drug-plus-talk therapy alone when helping people overcome addiction.

Levy says, “Our higher-level conclusion is that a treatment based on meditation-like techniques can be helpful as a supplement to help someone get out of addiction. We give scientific and mathematical arguments for this.”

His theoretical research approach using virtual subjects is rather unusual, Levy acknowledges, but it’s now gaining significant trust because it offers some strengths. In particular, because it relies on the increasing amount of available data and knowledge, in silico research offers quick preliminary tests of “rationally supported speculations,” he says, before full-scale experiments are launched with human patients or animals.

“I am a theoretician, so I use other peoples’ studies and try to see how they work together and how experiments fit in,” Levy points out. “This work follows a knowledge repository (KR) model, where the knowledge comes from other peoples’ theories and experiments. By consolidating them, we propose some hypotheses that we hope will subsequently be tested by experts in the field.” The KR model used in his current work incorporates pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, neuropsychological, cognitive and behavioral components, the researcher notes.

Among other outcomes, Levy says, “We try to describe what could be the cognitive effect of using a nicotine patch. What does it imply at the cognitive level, when people are willing to use one? Others have showed changes in prefrontal cortex where decisions are made, in executive function, as drug use progresses. Also, we did a small simulation of a couple of weeks with a patch, then tried to simulate the cognitive effect of using meditation for a few weeks.”
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