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Brain Shape Linked to Cocaine Addiction

By BitterSweet, Feb 5, 2013 | | |
  1. BitterSweet
    Why are some people able to use cocaine without becoming addicted? A new study suggests the answer may lie in the shape of their brains.

    Sporadic cocaine users tend to have a larger frontal lobe, a region associated with self-control, while cocaine addicts are more likely to have small frontal lobes, according to the study, which was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

    The scientists, at the University of Cambridge, collected brain scans and personality tests from people who had used cocaine over several years — some addicted, some not. While the nonaddicts shared a penchant for risk-taking behavior, the increased gray matter seemed to help them resist addiction by exerting more self-control and making more advantageous decisions. “They could take it or leave it,” said Karen Ersche, the lead author.

    The researchers believe the differences in brain shape predated the drug use rather than occurring as a result of it.

    Dr. Ersche said the findings reinforced the idea, now popular among addiction experts, that addiction depends less on character and more on biological makeup.

    “It’s not the Nancy Reagan approach, just say no or one day or another you will get addicted,” she said. “How the drugs work and how much you are at risk depends on what type of person you are and what type of brain you have.”



  1. Calliope
    The description in the NYTimes story is a little sparse. Focus on brain *shape* seems a little odd to me.

    Recreational cocaine users and cocaine dependent individuals showed increased volume of parahyppocampal grey matter compared to both siblings and control group and "this volume increase was weakly but significantly associated with sensation-seeking traits." (5) "However, despite the strong relationship between sensation-seeking and drug taking, it is also important to note that the trait characterizes a need for stimulation that is expressed by a tendency to seek out novel experiences, which do not necessarily involve addictive drugs. Yet, converging lines of evidence suggest that exposure to novelty and addictive drugs may involve overlapping neural networks, which may explain why individuals who seek out novelty may also engage in drug-taking." (5) Judge for yourselves...

    [IMGL="white"]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=31320&stc=1&d=1360086293[/IMGL]Study uploaded to archive:
    Karen D. Ersche, P. Simon Jones, Guy B. Williams, Dana G. Smith, Edward T. Bullmore, and Trevor W. Robbins "Distinctive Personality Traits and Neural Correlates Associated with Stimulant Drug Use Versus Familial Risk of Stimulant Dependence". (2013) Biological Psychiatry (28 January). Article in Press. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.11.016)

    Background: Stimulant drugs such as cocaine and amphetamine have a high abuse liability, but not everyone who uses them develops dependence. However, the risk for dependence is increased for individuals with a family history of addiction. We hypothesized that individuals without a family history of dependence who have been using cocaine recreationally for several years but have not made the transition to dependence will differ in terms of personality traits and brain structure from individuals who are either dependent on stimulants or at risk for dependence.

    Methods: We compared 27 individuals without a familial risk of dependence who had been using cocaine recreationally with 50 adults with stimulant dependence, their nondependent siblings (n ¼ 50), and unrelated healthy volunteers (n ¼ 52) who had neither a personal nor a family history of dependence. All participants underwent a magnetic resonance imaging brain scan and completed a selection of personality measures that have been associated with substance abuse.

    Results: Increased sensation-seeking traits and abnormal orbitofrontal and parahippocampal volume were shared by individuals who were dependent on stimulant drugs or used cocaine recreationally. By contrast, increased levels of impulsive and compulsive personality traits and limbic-striatal enlargement were shared by stimulant-dependent individuals and their unaffected siblings.

    Conclusions: We provide evidence for distinct neurobiological phenotypes that are either associated with familial vulnerability for dependence or with regular stimulant drug use. Our findings further suggest that some individuals with high sensation-seeking traits but no familial vulnerability for dependence are likely to use cocaine but may have relatively low risk for developing dependence.
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