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Gray matter in brain's control center linked to ability to process reward
Date:11/29/2011

UPTON, NY The more gray matter you have in the decision-making, thought-processing part of your brain, the better your ability to evaluate rewards and consequences. That may seem like an obvious conclusion, but a new study conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory is the first to show this link between structure and function in healthy people and the impairment of both structure and function in people addicted to cocaine. The study appears in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

"This study documents for the first time the importance to reward processing of gray matter structural integrity in the parts of the brain's prefrontal cortex that are involved in higher-order executive function, including self-control and decision-making," said Muhammad Parvaz, a post-doctoral fellow at Brookhaven Lab and a co-lead author on the paper.

"Previous studies conducted at Brookhaven and elsewhere have explored the structural integrity of the prefrontal cortex in drug addiction and the functional components of reward processing, but these studies were conducted separately," Parvaz said. "We wanted to know whether the specific function of reward processing could be 'mapped' onto the underlying brain structure whether and how these two are related," he added.

Differences in gray matter volume the amount of brain matter made up of nerve cell bodies, as opposed to the "white matter" axons that form the connections between cells have been observed in a range of neuropsychiatric diseases when compared with healthy states, explained Anna Konova, the other co-lead author on the paper. "We wanted to know more about what these differences mean functionally in healthy individuals and in drug-addicted individuals," she said.

To explore this structure-function relationship, the scientists performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans to measure brain volume in 17 healthy people and 22 cocaine user
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Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
631-344-8350
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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