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J Neurosci. 2016 Apr 6;36(14):4038-49. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3206-15.2016.

Individual Differences in Cognitive Control Circuit Anatomy Link Sensation Seeking, Impulsivity, and Substance Use.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, avram.holmes@yale.edu.
2
Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, Department of Psychology, Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, and.
3
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129.
4
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Center for Human Genetic Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114.
5
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, Department of Psychology, Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, and.

Abstract

Individuals vary widely in their tendency to seek stimulation and act impulsively, early developing traits with genetic origins. Failures to regulate these behaviors increase risk for maladaptive outcomes including substance abuse. Here, we explored the neuroanatomical correlates of sensation seeking and impulsivity in healthy young adults. Our analyses revealed links between sensation seeking and reduced cortical thickness that were preferentially localized to regions implicated in cognitive control, including anterior cingulate and middle frontal gyrus (n = 1015). These associations generalized to self-reported motor impulsivity, replicated in an independent group (n = 219), and correlated with heightened alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use. Critically, the relations between sensation seeking and brain structure were evident in participants without a history of alcohol or tobacco use, suggesting that observed associations with anatomy are not solely a consequence of substance use. These results demonstrate that individual differences in the tendency to seek stimulation, act on impulse, and engage in substance use are correlated with the anatomical structure of cognitive control circuitry. Our findings suggest that, in healthy populations, covariation across these complex multidimensional behaviors may in part originate from a common underlying biology.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:

Impaired cognitive control may result in a tendency to seek stimulation impulsively and an increased risk for maladaptive outcomes, including substance abuse. Here, we examined the structural correlates of sensation seeking and impulsivity in a large cohort of healthy young adults. Our analyses revealed links between sensation seeking and reduced cortical thickness that were preferentially localized to regions implicated in cognitive control, including anterior cingulate and middle frontal gyrus. The observed associations generalized to motor impulsivity, replicated in an independent group, and predicted heightened alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use. These data indicate that normal variability in cognitive control system anatomy predicts sensation seeking and motor impulsivity in the healthy populations, potentially increasing risk for substance use disorders.

KEYWORDS:

brain anatomy; cognitive control; impulsivity; individual differences; sensation seeking; substance use

PMID:
27053210
PMCID:
PMC4821913
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3206-15.2016
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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