Neural correlates of impaired self-awareness of apathy, disinhibition and dysexecutive deficits in cocaine-dependent individuals

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Abstract

Cocaine addiction is characterized by impaired self-awareness about cognitive and motivational deficits, leading to poor treatment outcomes. However, there is still limited understanding of the neurophysiological underpinnings of this impairment. We aimed to establish if impaired self-awareness is underpinned by brain structural phenotypes among cocaine-dependent individuals (CDI). Sixty-five CDI and 65 designated informants completed the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale, and a subsample of 40 CDI were scanned via magnetic resonance imaging. We applied multiple regression models to establish the association between levels of self-awareness indexed by Frontal Systems Behavior Scale's discrepancy scores (i.e. informant ratings minus self-reports of apathy, disinhibition and dysexecutive deficits) and gray matter volumes indexed by magnetic resonance imaging voxel-based measures within five brain regions of interest: anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), striatum, insula and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). We also examined the neural underpinnings of underestimation versus overestimation of deficits, by splitting the CDI group according to the positive or negative value of their discrepancy scores. We found that poorer self-awareness of apathy deficits was associated with greater gray matter volume in the dorsal striatum, and poorer self-awareness of disinhibition deficits was associated with greater gray matter volume in the OFC in the whole sample. More underestimation and more overestimation of executive deficits were linked to lower DLPFC volume. We show that impaired self-awareness of cognitive and motivational deficits in cocaine addiction has a neural underpinning, implicating striatum, OFC and DLPFC structural phenotypes.

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