Neural Correlates of Drug-Biased Choice in Currently Using and Abstinent Individuals With Cocaine Use Disorder

Scott J. Moeller, Anna Zilverstand, Anna B. Konova, Prantik Kundu, Muhammad A. Parvaz, Rebecca Preston-Campbell, Keren Bachi, Nelly Alia-Klein, Rita Z. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Background: The choice for drugs over alternative reinforcers is a translational hallmark feature of drug addiction. The neural basis of such drug-biased choice is not well understood, particularly in individuals with protracted drug abstinence who cannot ethically participate in studies that offer drug-using opportunities. Methods: We developed a functional magnetic resonance imaging drug-choice task to examine the choice for viewing drug-related images, rather than for actually consuming a drug. Actively using (n = 18) and abstaining (n = 19) individuals with a history of cocaine use disorder (CUD: dependence or abuse) and matched healthy control subjects (n = 26) participated. Results: Individuals with CUD, especially those actively using cocaine outside the laboratory, made more choices than control subjects to view images depicting cocaine (especially when directly compared against images depicting an alternative appetitive reinforcer [food]). Functional magnetic resonance imaging data revealed that in individuals with CUD, the act of making drug-related choices engaged brain regions implicated in choice difficulty or ambivalence (i.e., dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which was higher in all individuals with CUD than control subjects). Drug-related choices in CUD also engaged brain regions implicated in reward (e.g., midbrain/ventral tegmental area, which was most activated in active users, although this region was not hypothesized a priori). Conclusions: These results help clarify the neural mechanisms underlying drug-biased choice in human addiction, which, beyond mechanisms involved in value assignment or reward, may critically involve mechanisms that contribute to resolving difficult decisions. Future studies are needed to validate these behavioral and neural abnormalities as markers of drug seeking and relapse in treatment contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-494
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Abstinence
  • Choice behavior
  • Decision making
  • Drug addiction
  • fMRI
  • Value

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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