Cortical substrates of cue-reactivity in multiple substance dependent populations: transdiagnostic relevance of the medial prefrontal cortex

Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Sep 7;8(1):186. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0220-9.


Elevated drug-cue elicited brain activity is one of the most widely cited, transdiagnostically relevant traits of substance dependent populations. These populations, however, are typically studied in isolation. The goal of this study was to prospectively investigate the spatial topography of drug-cue reactivity in a large set of individuals dependent on either cocaine, alcohol, or nicotine. Functional MRI data was acquired from 156 substance dependent individuals (55 cocaine, 53 alcohol, and 48 nicotine) as they performed a standardized drug-cue exposure task. Clusters of significant activation to drug-cues relative to neutral cues ('hot spots') were isolated for each individual. K-means clustering was used to classify the spatial topography of the hotspots in the data set. The percentage of hotspots that would be reached at several distances (2-5 cm) of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) were calculated. One hundred and three participants had at least one cluster of significant frontal cortex activity (66%). K-means revealed 3 distinct clusters within the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), left inferior frontal gyrus/insula, right premotor cortex. For the group as a whole (and for alcohol users and nicotine users independently), medial prefrontal cortex (BA 10) was the location of the greatest number of hotspots. The frontal pole was cortical location closest to the largest percentage of hotspots. While there is individual variability in the location of the cue-elicited 'hot spot' these data demonstrate that elevated BOLD signal to drug cues in the MPFC may be a transdiagnostic endophenotype of addiction which may also be a fruitful neuromodulation target.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult