Q. I was curious about the idea of strengthening executive function to achieve better self-control. If someone with an addiction does this, will he/she need to continue this therapy for the rest of their life to prevent a relapse?
Answer By: Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
National Institutes on Health
The brain is an amazingly plastic organ: it can continue changing—for good and bad—until the bitter end. Here’s what neurons do: they talk to each other in response to experience, and their contact points (synapses) become stronger or weaker as a function of their shared history. This is actually very reminiscent to an athlete whose performance gets better and better with practice. The more she practices the better she gets at a particular task or skill —up to a point, of course. What one could potentially accomplish by training his or her own brain can be equally amazing, with the positive results accumulating over time, thanks to synaptic plasticity. Therapeutic approaches for addiction, particularly cognitive training, can dramatically reduce and keep reducing the risk of relapse over time.