Background: Cocaine abuse has been associated with widely distributed areas of significant cerebral blood flow (CBF) reductions or hypo-perfusion as well as CBF hyper-perfusion, but these perfusion abnormalities have not been examined using newer technologies such as statistical parametric mapping (SPM). These areas of abnormal CBF may be more likely among those who abuse cocaine and alcohol together.
Methods: Using SPECT with HMPAO for CBF we compared proportional scaling (PS) to histogram normalization (HEQ) in SPM among 20 controls and 32 recently abstinent cocaine abusers. We then separated the cocaine abusers into two groups (12 cocaine plus alcohol abusers and 20 cocaine alone abusers) and compared both groups to the 20 controls for brain areas of hypo- and hyper-perfusion.
Results: Sensitivity to hypo-perfusion was greater with HEQ than PS. Hypo-perfused areas were more likely in the 12 alcohol plus cocaine abusers than in the 20 cocaine alone abusers or 20 controls, and hyper-perfused areas were significantly more likely among the cocaine abusers than controls. The type of CBF abnormality varied by brain location with hypo-perfusion significantly more likely in occipital and temporal cortex or cerebellum and hyper-perfusion more likely in frontal and parietal cortex.
Conclusions: These abnormalities in brain perfusion are consistent with previous non-SPM approaches that showed more hypo-perfusion in cocaine abusers than controls and appear to reflect vasospasm and potential compensations in cerebral blood flow.