According to recent theories, drug addicted patients suffer of an impaired response inhibition and salience attribution (I-RISA) together with a perturbed connectivity between the nuclei accumbens (NAcs) and the orbito-prefrontal (oPFC) and dorsal prefrontal (dPFC) cortices, brain regions associated with motivation and cognitive control. To empirically test these assumptions, we evaluated the (neuro)psychological trait and the functional organization of the resting state brain networks associated with the NAcs in 18 former cocaine abusers (FCAs), while being in drug abstinence since 5 months. The psychological data were grouped into three empirical variables related with emotion regulation, emotion awareness and strategic and controlled behaviour.
Comparison of the resting state patterns between the entire sample of FCAs and 19 controls revealed a reduction of functional connectivity between the NAcs and the dPFC and enhanced connectivity between the NAcs and the dorsal-striatum. In the 8 FCAs who relapsed into cocaine use after 3 months, the level of functional connectivity between the NAcs and dPFC was lower than the functional connectivity estimated in the group of patients that did not relapsed. Finally, in the entire sample of FCAs, the higher the connectivity between the NAc and the oPFC the lower was the level of strategic and controlled behaviour.
Taken together, these results are compatible with models of the interactions between the NAcs, the dorsal striatum and frontal cortices in the I-RISA syndrome, showing that such interactions are particularly perturbed in patients at greater risk of relapse into cocaine abuse.