Drug polyconsumption is associated with increased synchronization of brain electrical-activity at rest and in a counting task

Int J Neural Syst. 2014 Feb;24(1):1450005. doi: 10.1142/S0129065714500051. Epub 2013 Dec 5.


Drug abusers typically consume not just one but several types of drugs, starting from alcohol and marijuana consumption, and then dramatically lapsing into addiction to harder drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, or amphetamine. The brain of drug abusers presents various structural and neurophysiological abnormalities, some of which may predate drug consumption onset. However, how these changes translate into modifications in functional brain connectivity is still poorly understood. To characterize functional connectivity patterns, we recorded Electroencephalogram (EEG) activity from 21 detoxified drug abusers and 20 age-matched control subjects performing a simple counting task and at rest activity. To evaluate the cortical brain connectivity network we applied the Synchronization Likelihood algorithm. The results showed that drug abusers had higher synchronization levels at low frequencies, mainly in the θ band (4-8 Hz) between frontal and posterior cortical regions. During the counting task, patients showed increased synchronization in the β (14-35 Hz), and γ (35-45 Hz) frequency bands, in fronto-posterior and interhemispheric temporal regions. Taken together 'slow-down' at rest and task-related 'over-exertion' could indicate that the brain of drug abusers is suffering from a premature form of ageing. Future studies will clarify whether this condition can be reversed following prolonged periods of abstinence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cortical Synchronization / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Rest
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology*
  • Young Adult