Decreased absolute amygdala volume in cocaine addicts.
The amygdala is instrumental to a set of brain processes that lead to cocaine consumption, including those that mediate reward and drug craving. This study examined the volumes of the amygdala and hippocampus in cocaine-addicted subjects and matched healthy controls and determined that the amygdala but not the hippocampus was significantly reduced in volume. The right-left amygdala asymmetry in control subjects was absent in the cocaine addicts. Topological analysis of amygdala isosurfaces (population averages) revealed that the isosurface of the cocaine-dependent group undercut the anterior and superior surfaces of the control group, implicating a difference in the corticomedial and basolateral nuclei. In cocaine addicts, amygdala volume did not correlate with any measure of cocaine use. The amygdala symmetry coefficient did correlate with baseline but not cocaine-primed craving. These findings argue for a condition that predisposes the individual to cocaine dependence by affecting the amygdala, or a primary event early in the course of cocaine use.