Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain differences in college-aged occasional drug users

Date:
March 25, 2014
Source:
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences
Summary:
Impaired neuronal activity has been found in the parts of the brain associated with anticipatory functioning among occasional 18- to 24-year-old users of stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and prescription drugs such as Adderall. The brain differences, detected using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), are believed to represent an internal hard wiring that may make some people more prone to drug addiction later in life.

Illustration of drug use (stock photo). The brain differences, detected in this study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), are believed to represent an internal hard wiring that may make some people more prone to drug addiction later in life.
Credit: © Lisa F. Young / Fotolia

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered impaired neuronal activity in the parts of the brain associated with anticipatory functioning among occasional 18- to 24-year-old users of stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and prescription drugs such as Adderall.

Related Articles


The brain differences, detected using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), are believed to represent an internal hard wiring that may make some people more prone to drug addiction later in life.

Among the study's main implications is the possibility of being able to use brain activity patterns as a means of identifying at-risk youth long before they have any obvious outward signs of addictive behaviors.

The study is published in the March 26 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"If you show me 100 college students and tell me which ones have taken stimulants a dozen times, I can tell you those students' brains are different," said Martin Paulus, MD, professor of psychiatry and a co-senior author with Angela Yu, PhD, professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego. "Our study is telling us, it's not 'this is your brain on drugs,' it's 'this is the brain that does drugs.'"

In the study, 18- to 24-year-old college students were shown either an X or an O on a screen and instructed to press, as quickly as possible, a left button if an X appeared or a right button if an O appeared. If a tone was heard, they were instructed not to press a button. Each participant's reaction times and errors were measured for 288 trials, while their brain activity was recorded via fMRI.

Occasional users were characterized as having taken stimulants an average of 12 to 15 times. The "stimulant naοve" control group included students who had never taken stimulants. Both groups were screened for factors, such as alcohol dependency and mental health disorders, that might have confounded the study's results.

The outcomes from the trials showed that occasional users have slightly faster reaction times, suggesting a tendency toward impulsivity. The most striking difference, however, occurred during the "stop" trials. Here, the occasional users made more mistakes, and their performance worsened, relative to the control group, as the task became harder (i.e., when the tone occurred later in the trial).

The brain images of the occasional users showed consistent patterns of diminished neuronal activity in the parts of the brain associated with anticipatory functioning and updating anticipation based on past trials.

"We used to think that drug addicts just did not hold themselves back but this work suggests that the root of this is an impaired ability to anticipate a situation and to detect trends in when they need to stop," said Katia Harlι, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Paulus laboratory and the study's lead author.

The next step will be to examine the degree to which these brain activity patterns are permanent or can be re-calibrated. The researchers said it may be possible to "exercise" weak areas of the brain, where attenuated neuronal activity is associated with higher tendency to addiction.

"Right now there are no treatments for stimulant addiction and the relapse rate is upward of 50 percent," Paulus said. "Early intervention is our best option."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. "Brain differences in college-aged occasional drug users." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140325190714.htm>.
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. (2014, March 25). Brain differences in college-aged occasional drug users. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140325190714.htm
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. "Brain differences in college-aged occasional drug users." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140325190714.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 9 out of 10 excessive drinkers in the country are not alcohol dependent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) — Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins