Executive control network connectivity strength protects against relapse to cocaine use

Meredith J. Mchugh, Hong Gu, Yihong Yang, Bryon Adinoff, Elliot A. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Cocaine addiction is characterized by notoriously high relapse rates following treatment. Recent efforts to address poor treatment outcomes have turned to potential neural markers of relapse risk. Accordingly, the present study examined resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) within and between three large-scale cortical networks: the default mode network (DMN), salience network (SN) and executive control network (ECN). All three have been implicated in relapse-related phenomena including craving, withdrawal and executive control deficits. Forty-five cocaine-dependent individuals and 22 healthy controls completed 6-min resting fMRI scans, The Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, Continuous Performance Test and Cocaine Craving Questionnaire. Cocaine-dependent individuals completed all measures in the final week of a residential treatment episode. Ten control and 9 abstinent cocaine-dependent individuals returned for 3–6 month follow-up scan visits. A group-level independent component analysis was employed to generate ECN, DMN and SN components. For individuals abstinent up to day 30 post-treatment (n = 21), we found enhanced pre-discharge rsFC between the left ECN and both the right ECN and SN as well as between the right ECN and left ECN. Left ECN rsFC effects remained elevated 3–6 months later among abstinent cocaine-dependent individuals. Relapse was related to fewer years of education and more years smoking but no other demographic, clinical, treatment and neurocognitive characteristics. Findings suggest that interhemispheric ECN and ECN-SN connectivity strength may protect against relapse to cocaine use following treatment. These patterns of enhanced interhemispheric network connectivity may reflect a greater capacity to engage executive control processes when faced with opportunities to use cocaine post-treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1790-1801
Number of pages12
JournalAddiction Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • addiction
  • cocaine
  • executive control
  • relapse
  • resting state connectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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