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Functional changes of the reward system underlie blunted response to social gaze in cocaine users


Preller, Katrin H; Herdener, Markus; Schilbach, Leonhard; Stämpfli, Philipp; Hulka, Lea M; Vonmoos, Matthias; Ingold, Nina; Vogeley, Kai; Tobler, Philippe N; Seifritz, Erich; Quednow, Boris B (2014). Functional changes of the reward system underlie blunted response to social gaze in cocaine users. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(7):2842-2847.

Abstract

Social interaction deficits in drug users likely impede treatment, increase the burden of the affected families, and consequently contribute to the high costs for society associated with addiction. Despite its significance, the neural basis of altered social interaction in drug users is currently unknown. Therefore, we investigated basal social gaze behavior in cocaine users by applying behavioral, psychophysiological, and functional brain-imaging methods. In study I, 80 regular cocaine users and 63 healthy controls completed an interactive paradigm in which the participants’ gaze was recorded by an eye-tracking device that controlled the gaze of an anthropomorphic virtual character. Valence ratings of different eye-contact conditions revealed that cocaine users show diminished emotional engagement in social interaction, which was also supported by reduced pupil responses. Study II investigated the neural underpinnings of changes in social reward processing observed in study I. Sixteen cocaine users and 16 controls completed a similar interaction paradigm as used in study I while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. In response to social interaction, cocaine users displayed decreased activation of the medial orbitofrontal cortex, a key region of reward processing. Moreover, blunted activation of the medial orbitofrontal cortex was significantly correlated with a decreased social network size, reflecting problems in real-life social behavior because of reduced social reward. In conclusion, basic social interaction deficits in cocaine users as observed here may arise from altered social reward processing. Consequently, these results point to the importance of reinstatement of social reward in the treatment of stimulant addiction.

Abstract

Social interaction deficits in drug users likely impede treatment, increase the burden of the affected families, and consequently contribute to the high costs for society associated with addiction. Despite its significance, the neural basis of altered social interaction in drug users is currently unknown. Therefore, we investigated basal social gaze behavior in cocaine users by applying behavioral, psychophysiological, and functional brain-imaging methods. In study I, 80 regular cocaine users and 63 healthy controls completed an interactive paradigm in which the participants’ gaze was recorded by an eye-tracking device that controlled the gaze of an anthropomorphic virtual character. Valence ratings of different eye-contact conditions revealed that cocaine users show diminished emotional engagement in social interaction, which was also supported by reduced pupil responses. Study II investigated the neural underpinnings of changes in social reward processing observed in study I. Sixteen cocaine users and 16 controls completed a similar interaction paradigm as used in study I while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. In response to social interaction, cocaine users displayed decreased activation of the medial orbitofrontal cortex, a key region of reward processing. Moreover, blunted activation of the medial orbitofrontal cortex was significantly correlated with a decreased social network size, reflecting problems in real-life social behavior because of reduced social reward. In conclusion, basic social interaction deficits in cocaine users as observed here may arise from altered social reward processing. Consequently, these results point to the importance of reinstatement of social reward in the treatment of stimulant addiction.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
08 University Research Priority Programs > Integrative Human Physiology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
330 Economics
Language:English
Date:21 January 2014
Deposited On:28 Jan 2014 15:12
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 08:41
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1317090111
PubMed ID:24449854

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