People with low risk for cocaine dependence have differently shaped brain to those with addiction

January 17, 2013

People who take cocaine over many years without becoming addicted have a brain structure which is significantly different from those individuals who developed cocaine-dependence, researchers have discovered. New research from the University of Cambridge has found that recreational drug users who have not developed a dependence have an abnormally large frontal lobe, the section of the brain implicated in self-control. Their research was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

For the study, led by Dr Karen Ersche, individuals who use cocaine on a regular basis underwent a brain scan and completed a series of . The majority of the were addicted to the drug but some were not (despite having used it for several years).

The scientists discovered that a region in the frontal lobes of the brain, known to be critically implicated in decision-making and self-control, was abnormally bigger in the recreational cocaine users. The Cambridge researchers suggest that this abnormal increase in grey matter volume, which they believe predates drug use, might reflect resilience to the effects of cocaine, and even possibly helps these recreational cocaine users to exert self-control and to make advantageous decisions which minimize the risk of them becoming addicted.

They found that this same region in the frontal lobes of the brain was significantly reduced in size in people with , confirming earlier research that had found similar results. They believe that at least some of these changes are the result of drug use, which causes drug users to lose grey matter.

They also found that people who use like cocaine exhibit high levels of sensation-seeking personality traits, but only those developing dependence show of impulsivity and compulsivity.

Dr Ersche, of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) at the University of Cambridge, said: "These findings are important because they show that the use of cocaine does not inevitably lead to addiction in people with good self-control and no familial risk.

"Our findings indicate that preventative strategies might be more effective if they were tailored more closely to those individuals at risk according to their personality profile and ."

The researchers will next explore the basis of the recreational users' apparent resilience to drug dependence.

Dr Ersche added: "Their high level of education, less troubled family background or the beginning of drug-taking only after puberty may all play a role."

Explore further: Abnormal brain structure linked to chronic cocaine abuse

More information: The paper 'Distinctive Personality Traits and Neural Correlates Associated with Stimulant Drug Use Versus Familial Risk of Stimulant Dependence' was published in Biological Psychiatry.

Related Stories

Abnormal brain structure linked to chronic cocaine abuse

June 21, 2011
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have identified abnormal brain structures in the frontal lobe of cocaine users' brains which are linked to their compulsive cocaine-using behaviour. Their findings were published ...

Chronic cocaine use may speed up aging of brain

April 24, 2012
New research by scientists at the University of Cambridge suggests that chronic cocaine abuse accelerates the process of brain ageing. The study, published today 25 April in Molecular Psychiatry, found that age-related loss ...

Traumatic childhood may increase the risk of drug addiction: study

August 31, 2012
Previous research has shown that personality traits such as impulsivity or compulsiveness are indicators of an increased risk of addiction. Now, new research from the University of Cambridge suggests that these impulsive ...

Possible tool to help cocaine users kick the habit

October 7, 2011
Medicines which increase levels of the brain chemical dopamine may hold the key to helping those addicted to cocaine and amphetamines kick the habit, researchers from the University of Cambridge have found.

Brains of addicts are inherently abnormal: study (Update)

February 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) at the University of Cambridge have identified a brain abnormality which is found in drug-dependent individuals as well as their siblings who have ...

Recommended for you

To pick a great gift, it's better to give AND receive

July 28, 2017
If it's the thought that makes a gift count, here's a thought that can make your gift count extra: Get a little something for yourself.

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.