Compulsive behaviours are acts that we feel compelled to repeatedly and habitually do, despite negative or harmful consequences. These are increasingly being recognised as a core feature of substance use disorders (e.g. nicotine, alcohol, methamphetamine), behavioural addictions (e.g. gambling), problematic internet use and eating disorders (e.g. binge eating).
Recent neurobiological evidence suggests that these behaviours are linked to abnormal activity within two key brain regions: the prefrontal cortex and the striatum. In individuals with substance use disorders, we see increasing brain changes as substance use escalates and becomes compulsive. It has been proposed that the same brain regions are involved in other compulsive disorders.
Treatment options traditionally involve psychotherapy or medication. While many individuals experience success with these therapies, a substantial proportion of individuals do not respond to these treatments. A more recent and promising avenue for the treatment of compulsive behaviours is mindfulness meditation, which involves repeated training of attention, awareness and conscious control.
This project will explore the role of abnormal brain activity in individuals with compulsive behaviours (namely problematic internet use and binge eating disorder), while testing the use of mindfulness meditation as a new line of treatment.