Brains of addicts are inherently abnormal: study

Drug addicts have inherited abnormalities in some parts of the brain which interfere with impulse control, said a British study published in the United States on Thursday.

Previous research has pointed to these differences, but it was unclear if they resulted from the ravages of addiction or if they were there beforehand to predispose a person to drug abuse.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge compared the brains of addicts to their non-addicted siblings as well as to healthy, unrelated volunteers and found that the siblings shared many of the same weaknesses in their brains.

That indicates that the brain vulnerabilities had a family origin, though somehow the siblings of addicts -- either due to environmental factors or other differences in brain structure -- were able to resist addiction.

"Presumably, the siblings must have some other resilience factors that counteract the familial vulnerability to drug dependence," said the study led by Karen Ersche of the University of Cambridge, published in the journal Science.

"An individual's predisposition to become addicted to stimulant drugs may be mediated by brain abnormalities linked to impaired self-control."

Researchers tested 50 biological sibling pairs, in which one was addicted to drugs and the other one had no history of chronic drug abuse. They also tested 50 healthy, unrelated pairs of people as a control group.

The tests involved measuring how well they could control their impulses in a stop-signal reaction time test that assesses how quickly a person can switch from following one set of instructions to another.

Addicts are known to have poor impulse control.

The researchers found that the sibling pairs -- even the non-addicts -- fared significantly worse on the test than the healthy volunteers.

Brain scans showed that the siblings shared some of the same weaknesses in the frontal lobe and its connections to the basal ganglia, which mediates motor, cognition and behavior.

In an accompanying Perspective article, Nora Volkow and Ruben Baler of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse said that knowing more about brain circuitry could help understand and treat other "impaired control" disorders, like obesity, pathological gambling, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

"Several childhood and adolescent interventions can improve executive function and self-control," though more study is needed to see how such work may or may not impact the brain, they wrote.

ksh/ch

 

  • Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report 3 minutes 59 seconds ago
    Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them.

  • Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day 11 hours ago
    Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day

    If there's one car that's particularly sought-after among today's well-heeled car collectors, a Ferrari 250 would be it. Usually it's the GTO variant, like the 1963 that sold for a record $52 million last year. A 250 of any sorts demands unfathomable cash, however, which is why we can but gawk at this 250 Testa Rossa. It's as close as any mere mortal will ever come to owning one.

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 12 hours ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • David Moyes statement after Man United firing
    David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    Statement released by David Moyes on Wednesday, a day after Manchester United announced he left as manager after less than a season in charge.

  • Indonesian general says his flashy watch is a fake
    Indonesian general says his flashy watch is a fake

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's military commander said critics who called him out for wearing an especially luxurious watch should be quiet because the timepiece is actually a cheap Chinese fake.