The cue-reactivity paradigm: An ensemble of networks driving attention and cognition when viewing drug-related and natural-reward stimuli

Hill-Bowen LD, Riedel MC, Poudel R, Salo T, Flannery JS, Camilleri JA, Eickhoff SB, Laird AR, Sutherland MT, Neurosci Biobehav Rev (2021).


The cue-reactivity paradigm is a widely adopted neuroimaging probe engendering brain activity linked with attentional, affective, and reward processes following presentation of appetitive stimuli. Given the multiple mental operations invoked, we sought to decompose cue-related brain activity into constituent components employing emergent meta-analytic techniques when considering drug and natural reward-related cues. We conducted coordinate-based meta-analyses delineating common and distinct brain activity convergence across cue-reactivity studies (N = 196 articles) involving drug (n = 133) or natural (n = 63) visual stimuli. Across all studies, convergence was observed in limbic, cingulate, insula, and fronto-parieto-occipital regions. Drug-distinct convergence was observed in posterior cingulate, dorsolateral prefrontal, and temporo-parietal regions, whereas distinct-natural convergence was observed in thalamic, insular, orbitofrontal, and occipital regions. We characterized connectivity profiles of identified regions by leveraging task-independent and task-dependent MRI datasets, grouped these profiles into subnetworks, and linked each with putative mental operations. Outcomes suggest multifaceted brain activity during cue-reactivity can be decomposed into elemental processes and indicate that while drugs of abuse usurp the brain’s natural-reward-processing system, some regions appear distinct to drug cue-reactivity.