Scientists using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have discovered impaired neuronal activity in occasional users of stimulant drugs. An internal hard wiring of the brain may be the reason some people become prone to drug addiction. The implication of the study is the possibility of using brain pattern activity to identify people who are at risk before they become addicted or when they exhibit addictive type behavior.
At the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers recorded brain activity via fMRI. The participants were given instructions to press a button when they saw a specific image, but not if they heard a sound in 288 trails measuring reaction times and errors on the assigned task. The study compared the brains of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years old that occasionally used cocaine, amphetamines or similar drugs to those of a “stimulant naïve” control group.
The reaction times of occasional users were actually faster on the first part of the trials, implying more impulsiveness compared to the control group. On the next part, the same group made more mistakes, which became worse as the tasks became more difficult. The difference in the two groups of people was notable.