Do you feel alright? Attenuated neural processing of aversive interoceptive stimuli in current stimulant users

Psychophysiology. 2015 Feb;52(2):249-62. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12303. Epub 2014 Sep 2.


Inability to appropriately process afferent interoceptive stimuli may contribute to initiation and/or escalation of substance use. An aversive interoceptive stimulus probed neural processing in problem stimulant users (PSU; n = 19), 18 desisted stimulant users (DSU; n = 18), and healthy comparison subjects (CTL; n = 21). Participants completed a continuous performance task while they anticipated and experienced 40 cm H2 O/L/sec inspiratory breathing loads during fMRI. PSU exhibited lower left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) activation than DSU and CTL across trials. Greater lifetime drug use due to stimulants was also linked to lower activation in these regions. In addition, PSU displayed lower right IFG and insula activation during breathing load than DSU and CTL. Findings suggest that transition to stimulant use disorders is marked by weakened attentional salience of aversive stimuli.

Keywords: Interoception; Substance abuse; fMRI/PET/MRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interoception / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants