Skip to Content

Is addiction caused by brain structure?


When it comes to drug abuse, it might all be in your head--literally.

New research published in Biological Psychiatry shows that addiction may have more to do with brain structure than scientists originally thought.

My frontal lobe is bigger than yours

Researchers at the University of Cambridge studied 200 cocaine users, some of whom regularly used the drug but never became addicted and some who used the drug and became addicted. The two groups were studied using EEG and personality tests.

They found that participants in the group that was not addicted to the drug had one part of the brain that was more developed than in the addicted users: the frontal lobe. This is the area of the brain that regulates self-control, and a higher mass of brain tissue found here seems to correspond with a higher degree of self-control.

What's family got to do with it?

Participants in the study who were not addicted also had no family history of addiction, suggesting that genetics of brain structure and its relationship to addiction might be something that's passed on. The researchers concluded that the non-addicted individuals were probably able to make better impulsive-control decisions which rendered them less vulnerable to the evolution of addiction.

"Our findings further suggest that some individuals with high sensation-seeking traits but no familial vulnerability for dependence are likely to use cocaine but may have relatively low risk for developing dependence," the abstract states.

Source: Biological Psychiatry