• Cocaine dependence;
  • cue reactivity;
  • fMRI;
  • motivation to change;
  • treatment seeking


Motivation to change is believed to be a key factor in therapeutic success in substance use disorders; however, the neurobiological mechanisms through which motivation to change impacts decreased substance use remain unclear. Existing research is conflicting, with some investigations supporting decreased and others reporting increased frontal activation to drug cues in individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorders. The present study investigated the relationship between motivation to change cocaine use and cue-elicited brain activity in cocaine-dependent individuals using two conceptualizations of ‘motivation to change’: (1) current treatment status (i.e. currently receiving versus not receiving outpatient treatment for cocaine dependence) and (2) self-reported motivation to change substance use, using the Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale. Thirty-eight cocaine-dependent individuals (14 currently in treatment) completed a diagnostic assessment and an fMRI cocaine cue-reactivity task. Whole-brain analyses demonstrated that both treatment-seeking and motivated participants had lower activation to cocaine cues in a wide variety of brain regions in the frontal, occipital, temporal and cingulate cortices relative to non-treatment–seeking and less motivated participants. Future research is needed to explain the mechanism by which treatment and/or motivation impacts neural cue reactivity, as such work could potentially aid in the development of more effective therapeutic techniques for substance-dependent patients.