Unpacking common and distinct neuroanatomical alterations in cocaine dependent versus pathological gambling

Patricia Irizar, Natalia Albein-Urios, José Miguel Martínez-González, Antonio Verdejo-Garcia, Valentina Lorenzetti

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Pathological gambling and cocaine dependence are highly pervasive disorders. Functional neuroimaging evidence implicates aberrant activity of prefrontal striatal pathways in both disorders. It is unclear if the neuroanatomy of these areas is also affected. Participants with pathological gambling (n = 18), cocaine dependence (n = 19) and controls (n = 21) underwent high-resolution structural MRI scan and cognitive assessments. In line with emerging functional neuroimaging findings, we hypothesised (i) lower volumes of corticostriatal areas ascribed to decision-making/inhibitory control, craving and reward processing (i.e., orbitofrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, amygdala, striatum, insula) in both pathological gamblers and cocaine dependent participants versus controls; (ii) selected dopaminergic/glutamatergic pathways directly taxed by cocaine (i.e., superior, dorsolateral and anterior cingulate cortices) would be altered in cocaine dependent versus control participants only. Analyses were conducted with a bonferroni correction. Our results showed that both pathological gambling and cocaine dependent participants, compared to controls, had larger volumes of the right inferior frontal gyrus (ps <.01, ds = 0.66 and 0.62). Cocaine dependent participants had lower nucleus accumbens and medial orbitofrontal cortex volumes than pathological gamblers (ps <.05, ds = 0.51 and 0.72), with the latter being predicted by higher negative urgency scores. Inferior frontal gyrus volume may reflect common alterations of cocaine and gambling addictions, whereas cocaine dependence may be uniquely associated with reduced volume in dorsolateral and middle frontal regions. Cocaine's supra-physiological effects on mesolimbic neurons may explain reduced accumbens-orbitofrontal structure compared to gambling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-88
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Cocaine dependence
  • Inferior frontal gyrus
  • Pathological gambling
  • Pre-frontal cortex

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