Background: For addicts, exposure to drug-relevant stimuli produces significant emotional and motivational reactions, such as pleasure and craving that encourage immediate substance use and undermine efforts to abstain or control drug use. Recent neuroimaging research has identified a distributed network of brain regions that contribute to this reactivity. However, results across studies have been vexingly inconsistent, perhaps in part because researchers have failed to pay sufficient attention to the psychological contexts that influence drug craving. Outside of the laboratory, the mental state of the addict, the availability of ready substances, the social environment, and the environmental context in which cues are encountered are likely to make vital contributions to psychological and behavioral reactions to drug cues. Delineating the nature of these factors may help resolve extant discrepancies in the literature, thereby helping to elucidate the neural substrates responsible for drug cue reactivity and their role in addiction.
Specific Aims : The overarching goal of this research is to identify key social and contextual factors that affect the propensity to engage in drug-seeking behavior.
Specific aims i nclude (i) understanding how social context influences neural activity associated with cue reactivity (ii) examining how the emotional and mental state of research participants influences reactions to cue exposure, (iii) predicting self-regulatory behavior following cue exposure, and (iv) examining whether social conformity depletes self-regulatory resources. This research will make use of a unique resource of movies that have been rigorously computer-coded for drug, tobacco, and alcohol use, as well as for social context, drug use motivations, and character features. The database consists of the top 100 movies each year since 1995. The stimulus materials for each study will be carefully selected from the database. To accomplish our research goals, we will use functional magnetic resonance imaging. Significance: Because exposure to drug cues plays a prominent role in drug use and relapse, understanding the neural mechanisms that contribute to these reactions will provide insights into the addicted brain. Understanding the social context of drug cue exposure has the potential to illuminate treatment of addictive behaviors.
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