Location, location: using functional magnetic resonance imaging to pinpoint brain differences relevant to stimulant use

Authors

  • Jennifer L. Aron,

    1. Departments of Neuroscience and
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    • J. Aron and M. P. Paulus declare no conflict of interests.

  • Martin P. Paulus

    Corresponding author
    1. Psychiatry
    2. University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Psychiatry Service, Veterans Affairs San Diego Health Care System, CA, USA
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    • J. Aron and M. P. Paulus declare no conflict of interests.


Martin P. Paulus MD, Department of Psychiatry, UCSD, 8950 Villa La Jolla Drive, Suite C-213, La Jolla CA 92037–0985, USA. E-mail: mpaulus@ucsd.edu

ABSTRACT

Aims  The purpose of this review is to summarize the neural substrate dysfunctions and disrupted cognitive, affective and experiential processes observed in methamphetamine and cocaine-dependent individuals.

Methods  We reviewed all publications in PubMed that conducted comparison studies between healthy volunteers and cocaine-, amphetamine- or methamphetamine-dependent individuals using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Results  Stimulant dependence is characterized by a distributed alteration of functional activation to a number of experimental paradigms. Attenuated anterior and posterior cingulate activation, reduced inferior frontal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation and altered posterior parietal activation point towards an inadequate demand-specific processing of information. Processes reported most consistently to be deficient in these functional neuroimaging studies include inhibitory control, executive functioning and decision-making.

Conclusion  One emerging theme is that stimulant-dependent individuals show specific, rather than generic, brain activation differences, i.e. instead of showing more or less brain activation regardless of task, they exhibit process-related brain activation differences that are consistent with a shift from context-specific, effortful processing to more stereotyped, habitual response generation.

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