How the harm of drugs and their availability affect brain reactions to drug cues: a meta-analysis of 64 neuroimaging activation studies

F Devoto, L Zapparoli, G Spinelli, G Scotti, E Paulesu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Visual drug cues are powerful triggers of craving in drug abusers contributing to enduring addiction. According to previous qualitative reviews, the response of the orbitofrontal cortex to such cues is sensitive to whether subjects are seeking treatment. Here we re-evaluate this proposal and assessed whether the nature of the drug matters. To this end, we performed a quantitative meta-analysis of 64 neuroimaging studies on drug-cue reactivity across legal (nicotine, alcohol) or illegal substances (cocaine, heroin). We used the ALE algorithm and a hierarchical clustering analysis followed by a cluster composition statistical analysis to assess the association of brain clusters with the nature of the substance, treatment status, and their interaction. Visual drug cues activate the mesocorticolimbic system and more so in abusers of illegal substances, suggesting that the illegal substances considered induce a deeper sensitization of the reward circuitry. Treatment status had a different modulatory role for legal and illegal substance abusers in anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal areas involved in inter-temporal decision making. The class of the substance and the treatment status are crucial and interacting factors that modulate the neural reactivity to drug cues. The orbitofrontal cortex is not sensitive to the treatment status per se, rather to the interaction of these factors. We discuss that these varying effects might be mediated by internal predispositions such as the intention to quit from drugs and external contingencies such as the daily life environmental availability of the drugs, the ease of getting them and the time frame of potential reward through drug consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 14 2020

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