Do mindfulness-based interventions change brain function in people with substance dependence? A systematic review of the fMRI evidence

Valentina Lorenzetti, Alexandra Gaillard, Emillie Beyer, Magdalena Kowalczyk, Sunjeev K. Kamboj, Victoria Manning, John Gleeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Substance use disorders (SUDs) affect ~ 35 million people globally and are associated with strong cravings, stress, and brain alterations. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) can mitigate the adverse psychosocial outcomes of SUDs, but the underlying neurobiology is unclear. Emerging findings were systematically synthesised from fMRI studies about MBI-associated changes in brain function in SUDs and their associations with mindfulness, drug quantity, and craving. Methods: PsycINFO, Medline, CINAHL, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science were searched. Seven studies met inclusion criteria. Results: Group by time effects indicated that MBIs in SUDs (6 tobacco and 1 opioid) were associated with changes in the function of brain pathways implicated in mindfulness and addiction (e.g., anterior cingulate cortex and striatum), which correlated with greater mindfulness, lower craving and drug quantity. Conclusions: The evidence for fMRI-related changes with MBI in SUD is currently limited. More fMRI studies are required to identify how MBIs mitigate and facilitate recovery from aberrant brain functioning in SUDs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number407
Number of pages18
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Addiction
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness-based intervention (MBI)
  • Review
  • Substance use disorder (SUD)

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