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Individual Differences in Cognitive Control Circuit Anatomy Link Sensation Seeking, Impulsivity, and Substance Use



Individual Differences in Cognitive Control Circuit Anatomy Link Sensation Seeking, Impulsivity, and Substance Use



Journal of Neuroscience 36(14): 4038-4049



Individuals vary widely in their tendency to seek stimulation and act impulsively, early developing traits with genetic origins. Failures to regulate these behaviors increase risk for maladaptive outcomes including substance abuse. Here, we explored the neuroanatomical correlates of sensation seeking and impulsivity in healthy young adults. Our analyses revealed links between sensation seeking and reduced cortical thickness that were preferentially localized to regions implicated in cognitive control, including anterior cingulate and middle frontal gyrus (n = 1015). These associations generalized to self-reported motor impulsivity, replicated in an independent group (n = 219), and correlated with heightened alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use. Critically, the relations between sensation seeking and brain structure were evident in participants without a history of alcohol or tobacco use, suggesting that observed associations with anatomy are not solely a consequence of substance use. These results demonstrate that individual differences in the tendency to seek stimulation, act on impulse, and engage in substance use are correlated with the anatomical structure of cognitive control circuitry. Our findings suggest that, in healthy populations, covariation across these complex multidimensional behaviors may in part originate from a common underlying biology. Impaired cognitive control may result in a tendency to seek stimulation impulsively and an increased risk for maladaptive outcomes, including substance abuse. Here, we examined the structural correlates of sensation seeking and impulsivity in a large cohort of healthy young adults. Our analyses revealed links between sensation seeking and reduced cortical thickness that were preferentially localized to regions implicated in cognitive control, including anterior cingulate and middle frontal gyrus. The observed associations generalized to motor impulsivity, replicated in an independent group, and predicted heightened alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use. These data indicate that normal variability in cognitive control system anatomy predicts sensation seeking and motor impulsivity in the healthy populations, potentially increasing risk for substance use disorders.

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Accession: 058101419

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 27053210

DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.3206-15.2016


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