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In the face of threat: neural and endocrine correlates of impaired facial emotion recognition in cocaine dependence

Ersche, K. D. and Hagan, C. C. and Smith, D. G. and Jones, P. S. and Calder, A. J. and Williams, G. B. (2015) In the face of threat: neural and endocrine correlates of impaired facial emotion recognition in cocaine dependence. Translational Psychiatry, 5 (5). Art. No. e570. ISSN 2158-3188. PMCID PMC4471289.

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The ability to recognize facial expressions of emotion in others is a cornerstone of human interaction. Selective impairments in the recognition of facial expressions of fear have frequently been reported in chronic cocaine users, but the nature of these impairments remains poorly understood. We used the multivariate method of partial least squares and structural magnetic resonance imaging to identify gray matter brain networks that underlie facial affect processing in both cocaine-dependent (n=29) and healthy male volunteers (n=29). We hypothesized that disruptions in neuroendocrine function in cocaine-dependent individuals would explain their impairments in fear recognition by modulating the relationship with the underlying gray matter networks. We found that cocaine-dependent individuals not only exhibited significant impairments in the recognition of fear, but also for facial expressions of anger. Although recognition accuracy of threatening expressions co-varied in all participants with distinctive gray matter networks implicated in fear and anger processing, in cocaine users it was less well predicted by these networks than in controls. The weaker brain-behavior relationships for threat processing were also mediated by distinctly different factors. Fear recognition impairments were influenced by variations in intelligence levels, whereas anger recognition impairments were associated with comorbid opiate dependence and related reduction in testosterone levels. We also observed an inverse relationship between testosterone levels and the duration of crack and opiate use. Our data provide novel insight into the neurobiological basis of abnormal threat processing in cocaine dependence, which may shed light on new opportunities facilitating the psychosocial integration of these patients.

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Hagan, C. C.0000-0002-4576-7120
Additional Information:© 2015 The Author(s). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit Received 2 November 2014; revised 27 February 2015; accepted 24 March 2015. This paper is dedicated to Andy Calder, who sadly passed away during the preparation of the paper. We thank all the participants for their contributions to this study, the clinical study officers of the Mental Health Research Network for their help with volunteer recruitment, and the staff at the NIHR Clinical Research Facility at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre for their dedicated support throughout this study. A special word of thanks goes to Heather Agyepong and Elisabeth Kent for their assistance with data collection, and to Sanja Abbott for help with data extraction. We also thank Amy Munro and Jonathan Bloomfield at the Department of Pathology at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for the analysis of cortisol and testosterone in blood serum, Kate Xu for statistical advice and Dean Mobbs for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. We also thank Jean Arlt for presenting the preliminary results at the 21st European Congress of Psychiatry in Nice (France) in April 2013. This work was funded by a research grant from the Medical Research Council (G0701497) and supported by the infrastructure of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (which is supported by a joint award from the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust). This study was jointly sponsored by the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Cambridge. KDE, CCH and PSJ are supported by the Medical Research Council, and DGS by the Cambridge Overseas Trust. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Medical Research Council (UK)G0701497
National Health Service TrustUNSPECIFIED
University of CambridgeUNSPECIFIED
Cambridge Overseas TrustUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:5
PubMed Central ID:PMC4471289
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200225-135945344
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Official Citation:Ersche, K., Hagan, C., Smith, D. et al. In the face of threat: neural and endocrine correlates of impaired facial emotion recognition in cocaine dependence. Transl Psychiatry 5, e570 (2015).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:101563
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:26 Feb 2020 15:34
Last Modified:26 Feb 2020 15:34

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