Introduction: The left and right cerebral hemispheres are not equivalent in performance of cognitive functions associated with risk factors of drug abuse, nor is their development equivalently affected by drugs of abuse. The question addressed here is whether drugs of abuse affect cognitive function as assessed by brain activation, in particular related to impulsivity, and/or whether weaker brain activation associated with impulsivity increases the risk of drug abuse.
Methodology: Using PubMed and key words, articles were selected that addressed brain activation in individuals who used or abused one of the psychoactive drugs. Findings are summarized.
Results: For each of the drugs, hypoactivation was found. In some cases this reduced activation was reported predominantly for the right or both hemispheres. There were fewer reports for the left hemisphere.
Discussion and conclusion: Rarely do authors focus on why only one or the other hemisphere is affected or why specific structures are affected. Neurobiological differences between the hemispheres and among various brain structures could provide clues to the specific effect of drugs. Increased attention to this gap in research will give additional insights into the etiology of drug abuse and provide direction for treatment.
Keywords: Brain activation; Cerebral hemispheres; Drug abuse; Impulsivity.