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Yariv Levy and Andrew Barto lead study on use of meditation in treating addiction

Using a computational model of addiction, a literature review and an in silico experiment, theoretical computer scientist Yariv Levy (Ph.D. '13) and colleagues suggest in a new paper this week that rehabilitation strategies coupling meditation-like practices with drug and behavior therapies are more helpful than drug-plus-talk therapy alone when helping people overcome addiction.

Levy reports results of his survey of animal and human studies and a computational experiment in a special section on addictive disorders in the current issue of the open access journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. He conducted this investigation while a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with neuroscience researcher Jerrold Meyer, an expert in the neurochemistry of human psychiatric disorders, and Professor Emeritus Andrew Barto, an expert in mathematical theory of learning and planning.

Levy says the goal is to translate what has been learned from animal and human studies to better understand addiction and explore new approaches to treatment. Another member of the research team was neuroeconomist Dino Levy of Tel Aviv University, an expert in decision-making processes who developed the core of the theoretical model. He is no relation to lead author Yariv Levy.

Levy says, "Our higher-level conclusion is that a treatment based on meditation-like techniques can be helpful as a supplement to help someone get out of addiction. We give scientific and mathematical arguments for this."

See full UMass Amherst News Office press release.