Neuroinflammation in addiction: A review of neuroimaging studies and potential immunotherapies

Milky Kohno, Jeanne Link, Laura E. Dennis, Holly McCready, Marilyn Huckans, William F. Hoffman, Jennifer M. Loftis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Addiction is a worldwide public health problem and this article reviews scientific advances in identifying the role of neuroinflammation in the genesis, maintenance, and treatment of substance use disorders. With an emphasis on neuroimaging techniques, this review examines human studies of addiction using positron emission tomography to identify binding of translocator protein (TSPO), which is upregulated in reactive glial cells and activated microglia during pathological states. High TSPO levels have been shown in methamphetamine use but exhibits variable patterns in cocaine use. Alcohol and nicotine use, however, are associated with lower TSPO levels. We discuss how mechanistic differences at the neurotransmitter and circuit level in the neural effects of these agents and subsequent immune response may explain these observations. Finally, we review the potential of anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibudilast, minocycline, and pioglitazone, to ameliorate the behavioral and cognitive consequences of addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-42
Number of pages9
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Cytokine
  • Inflammation
  • Microglia
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Resting-state functional connectivity
  • Substance use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Neuroinflammation in addiction: A review of neuroimaging studies and potential immunotherapies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this