Relationship between trait impulsivity and cortical volume, thickness and surface area in male cocaine users and non-drug using controls

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014 Nov 1;144:210-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.09.016. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


Background: Trait impulsivity is commonly associated with cocaine dependence. The few studies that have investigated the relation between trait impulsivity and cortical morphometry, have shown a distinct relation between impulsivity and cortical volume (CV) of temporal, frontal and insula cortex. As CV is the function of cortical surface area (SA) and cortical thickness (CT) impulsivity may be differently associated to SA than to CT.

Method: Fifty-three cocaine users (CU) and thirty-five controls (HC) (males aged 18-55 years) completed the Barrat impulsiveness scale and a structural scan was made on a 3T MRI scanner. CV, SA and CT were measured using Freesurfer. Multivariate analysis was used to test for group differences and group by impulsivity interaction effects in CV, SA and ST across nine regions of interest in the temporal, frontal and insular cortices. Possible confounding effects of drug- and alcohol exposure were explored.

Results: Compared to HC, CU had a smaller SA of the superior temporal cortex but a larger SA of the insula. There were divergent relations between trait impulsivity and SA of the superior temporal cortex and insula (positive in HC, negative in CU) and CT of the anterior cingulate cortex (negative in HC, positive in CU). Within CU, there was a negative association between monthly cocaine use and CT of the insula and superior temporal cortex.

Discussion: The distinct relation between trait impulsivity and cortical morphometry in CU and HC might underlie inefficient control over behavior resulting in maladaptive impulsive behaviour such as cocaine abuse.

Keywords: Addiction; Cocaine dependence; Cortical surface area; Cortical thickness; Cortical volume; Impulsivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / metabolism*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Gyrus Cinguli / metabolism*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult