Cocaine Abuse Study

The study, published in the November 17, 2004 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, was conducted by Dr. Robert Hester of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and Dr. Hugh Garavan of Trinity College and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The scientists who performed the study suggest that the resulting cognitive deficits may help explain why abusers persist in using the drug or return to it after a period of abstinence.

Scientists enlisted 15 active cocaine abusers and 15 healthy individuals who have never used the drug. Each participant completed a task in which they viewed memory lists of letters for 6 seconds and “rehearsed” each list for 8 seconds. The participant then pressed a button when they were presented with a letter that was not part of the preceding “memorized” list. During the task, the participants’ brains were analyzed via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a noninvasive imaging technique that illustrates nerve cell activity during the performance of a specific task.

Results showed that the cocaine abusers were significantly less proficient than the controls at accurately completing the task.

“Previous research that examined cognitive function in cocaine abusers identified decreased activity in the ACC,” says Dr. Garavan. “But our study is the first to show that the difficulty cocaine users have with inhibiting their actions, particularly when high levels of reasoning and decision-making are required, relate directly to this reduced capacity for controlling activity in the ACC and prefrontal regions of the brain.”
Source:The Journal of Neuroscience ; November 17, 2004

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