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Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Jan 15;75(2):124-31. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.05.019. Epub 2013 Jun 27.

Enhanced orbitofrontal cortex function and lack of attentional bias to cocaine cues in recreational stimulant users.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology and Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom. Electronic address: ds555@cam.ac.uk.
2
Department of Psychology and Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
3
Department of Psychology and Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom; GlaxoSmithKline, Clinical Unit Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough National Health Service Foundation Trust, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Although cocaine is known to be a highly addictive drug, there appears to be a select subset of individuals who are able to use the substance recreationally without developing dependence. These individuals do not report experiencing feelings of craving for cocaine, an important distinction from dependent users. However, no prior studies have compared attentional bias with cocaine cues between these groups to confirm this difference. Additionally, previous investigations into cognitive abilities in these individuals have been conflicting, and no research has been conducted on the neurobiological processes underlying cognitive functioning in this group.

METHODS:

This study administered the emotional cocaine-word Stroop to 27 recreational cocaine users, 50 stimulant-dependent individuals, and 52 healthy control participants during functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning. Behavioral and functional imaging results were compared between groups to assess attentional bias and cognitive effort to resist salient cocaine stimuli.

RESULTS:

Recreational users did not exhibit attentional bias to the cocaine words and did not differ from control subjects on task performance. Conversely, stimulant-dependent individuals were significantly more impaired on the task. Recreational participants also displayed a unique pattern of activation during performance, with significant underactivation in the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortices compared with both dependent users and control subjects.

CONCLUSIONS:

The absence of bias to cocaine-related stimuli in recreational users indicates they do not share attentional preference for these words with dependent users. Their distinct pattern of activation suggests a decreased need for cognitive control due to diminished desire for the drug, potentially serving as a resilience factor against dependence.

KEYWORDS:

Cocaine; Stroop; craving; fMRI; orbitofrontal cortex; recreational

PMID:
23809860
DOI:
10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.05.019
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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