Attenuated insular processing during risk predicts relapse in early abstinent methamphetamine-dependent individuals

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014 May;39(6):1379-87. doi: 10.1038/npp.2013.333. Epub 2013 Dec 6.


There is some evidence that neuroimaging can be used to predict relapse among abstinent methamphetamine-dependent (MD) individuals. However, it remains unclear what cognitive and neural processes contribute to relapse. This investigation examined whether insula activation during risk-taking decisions-a process shown to be disrupted in MD-is able to predict susceptibility for relapse. Sixty-eight MD enrolled in a treatment program during early abstinence completed a risk-taking task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Sixty-three of the sixty-eight individuals were followed up 1 year after the study. Of these, 18 MD reported relapse. The 45 abstinent MD showed patterns of insula activation during risky decisions that resembled those found in prior studies of healthy controls, consisting of lower insula activation during safe decisions paired with higher activation during risky decisions. In contrast, the 18 relapsed MD showed similar insula activation during safe and risky decisions. An increase in one standard deviation in the difference in insula activation between risky and safe choices was associated with a 0.34 odds ratio for relapse at any given time. A median split of insula activation (difference between risky and safe) showed that individuals in the bottom half were two times more likely to relapse. In addition, a model that included several other brain regions increased prediction accuracy compared with insula-based model alone. These results suggest that failure to differentially activate the insula as a function of risk is a part of an altered risk-processing network associated with an increased susceptibility to relapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • ROC Curve
  • Recurrence
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Survival Analysis


  • Methamphetamine