The structural effects of cocaine on neural systems mediating cognition and motivation are not well known. By comparing the thickness of neocortical and paralimbic brain regions between cocaine-dependent and matched control subjects, we found that four of 18 a priori regions involved with executive regulation of reward and attention were significantly thinner in addicts. Correlations were significant between thinner prefrontal cortex and reduced keypresses during judgment and decision making of relative preference in addicts, suggesting one basis for restricted behavioral repertoires in drug dependence. Reduced effortful attention performance in addicts also correlated with thinner paralimbic cortices. Some thickness differences in addicts were correlated with cocaine use independent of nicotine and alcohol, but addicts also showed diminished thickness heterogeneity and altered hemispheric thickness asymmetry. These observations suggest that brain structure abnormalities in addicts are related in part to drug use and in part to predisposition toward addiction.
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