In a new study, advanced imaging techniques reveals unexpected structural differences in the brains of cocaine addicts. For the study researchers compared detailed images of the brain structure of 27 cocaine addicts to that of similar images obtained from 27 healthy patients.
Results showed the amygdala -- a key structure in the brain, which previous research has linked to the brain's reward processing system -- is smaller in cocaine addicts than in healthy patients. However researchers say they are unsure if this difference causes addiction or is a result of early cocaine use. According to the study, rapid changes in the amygdala could have occurred early in the course of cocaine use. However, the types of variations in the amygdalas of cocaine users suggest a genetic cause, which may result in an increased risk for cocaine addiction.
The study showed no correlation between amygdala size and duration of cocaine addiction. However, cocaine addicts experiencing the highest levels of drug craving also had the smallest amygdalas. In conclusion researchers say the study suggests that, when the opportunity presents itself, some people just cannot make good judgments .