Inhibitory Control and Emotional Stress Regulation: Neuroimaging Evidence for Frontal-Limbic Dysfunction in Psycho-Stimulant Addiction

Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, Connecticut Mental Health Center S103, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (Impact Factor: 8.8). 02/2008; 32(3):581-97. DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.10.003
Source: PubMed


This review focuses on neuroimaging studies that examined stress processing and regulation and cognitive inhibitory control in patients with psycho-stimulant addiction. We provide an overview of these studies, summarizing converging evidence and discrepancies as they occur in the literature. We also adopt an analytic perspective and dissect these psychological processes into their sub-components, to identify the neural pathways specific to each component process and those that are more specifically involved in psycho-stimulant addiction. To this aim we refer frequently to studies conducted in healthy individuals. Despite the separate treatment of stress/affect regulation, stress-related craving or compulsive drug seeking, and inhibitory control, neural underpinnings of these processes overlap significantly. In particular, the ventromedial prefrontal regions including the anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala and the striatum are implicated in psychostimulant dependence. Our overarching thesis is that prefrontal activity ensures intact emotional stress regulation and inhibitory control. Altered prefrontal activity along with heightened striatal responses to addicted drug and drug-related salient stimuli perpetuates habitual drug seeking. Further studies that examine the functional relationships of these neural systems will likely provide the key to understanding the mechanisms underlying compulsive drug use behaviors in psycho-stimulant dependence.

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