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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Feb 1;121(1-2):45-53. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.08.007. Epub 2011 Aug 31.

The neurobiology of cognitive control in successful cocaine abstinence.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, USA.



Extensive evidence demonstrates that current cocaine abusers show hypoactivity in anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and respond poorly relative to drug-naïve controls on tests of executive function. Relatively little is known about the cognitive sequelae of long-term abstinence in cocaine addicts.


Here, we use a GO-NOGO task in which successful performance necessitated withholding a prepotent response to assay cognitive control in short- and long-term abstinent cocaine users (1-5 weeks and 40-102 weeks, respectively).


We report significantly greater activity in prefrontal, cingulate, cerebellar and inferior frontal gyrii in abstinent cocaine users for both successful response inhibitions and errors of commission. Moreover, this relative hyperactivity was present in both abstinent groups, which, in the presence of comparable behavioral performance, suggests a functional compensation.


Differences between the short- and long-abstinence groups in the patterns of functional recruitment suggest different cognitive control demands at different stages in abstinence. Short-term abstinence showed increased inhibition-related dorsolateral and inferior frontal activity indicative of the need for increased inhibitory control while long-term abstinence showed increased error-related ACC activity indicative of heightened behavioral monitoring. The results suggest that the integrity of prefrontal systems that underlie cognitive control functions may be an important characteristic of successful long-term abstinence.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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