Drugs and Alcohol Addiction

An FMRI Study to Examine Recognition Memory for Appetitive Cocaine Picture Stimuli in Non-Treatment Seeking Cocaine Smokers

Author(s): Suchismita Ray, Margaret Haney

Background: Maintenance of problematic drug use is believed to be influenced by conscious explicit memory processing, such as the processing involved in recognition memory. Few studies have examined recognition memory in drug users, but it is not known whether this memory process becomes biased towards appetitive cues in substance abusing populations. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we examined explicit recognition memory for cocaine and neutral picture stimuli in cocaine users and controls. 
Methods: During the study phase of a recognition memory task, 20 non-treatments seeking, chronic cocaine smokers (15M; 5F) and 17 age-matched controls (13M; 4F) viewed cocaine and neutral picture cues. During test, participants were instructed to discriminate previously viewed and new cocaine and neutral cues one at a time. Blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) data were collected while participants indicated whether they previously had seen the cue. 
Results: Cocaine users (vs. controls) showed a significantly enhanced activation in 10 brain regions during correct old/new recognition of cocaine (vs. neutral) cues. These areas in cocaine users included drug cue reactivity-related and recollection-based regions. Behavioral data showed that recognition accuracy (d’) for cocaine cues was significantly greater in cocaine (vs. control) group; there were no group differences for neutral cues. 
Conclusions: Behavioral data showed that recognition memory processing in cocaine users compared to controls was biased towards appetitive cocaine cues. Imaging results suggested that in cocaine users, but not controls, correct recognition of cocaine cues activated both drug cue reactivity-related and recollection-based areas that may promote cocaine use behavior.

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