Neurobiological underpinnings of sensation seeking trait in heroin abusers

Gordon L.F. CHENG, Yu-Pin LIU, Che Hin Chetwyn CHAN, Kwok-Fai SO, Hong ZENG, Tatia M.C. LEE

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Neurobiological investigation of heroin revealed that abusers of this highly addictive substance show dysregulation in brain circuits for reward processing and cognitive control. Psychologically, personality traits related to reward processing and cognitive control differed between heroin abusers and non-abusers. Yet, there is no direct evidence on the relationship between these neurobiological and psychological findings on heroin abusers, and whether such relationship is altered in these abusers. The present study filled this research gap by integrating findings obtained via magnetic resonance imaging (structural volume and resting-state functional connectivity) and self-reported personality trait measures (Zuckerman׳s Sensation Seeking Scale and Barratt Impulsivity Scale) on 33 abstinent heroin users and 30 matched healthy controls. The key finding is a negative relationship between high sensation seeking tendency and midbrain structural volume in the heroin users. Importantly, there was stronger coupling between the midbrain and ventromedial prefrontal cortex and weaker coupling between the midbrain and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in heroin users. Our findings offer significant insight into the neural underpinning of sensation seeking in heroin users. Importantly, the data shed light on a novel relationship between the mesolimbic-prefrontal pathway of the reward system and the high sensation seeking personality trait in heroin abusers. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. and ECNP.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1968-1980
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number11
Early online dateAug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


Cheng, G. L. F., Liu, Y.-P., Chan, C. C. H., So, K.-F., Zeng, H., & Lee, T. M. C. (2015). Neurobiological underpinnings of sensation seeking trait in heroin abusers. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 25(11), 1968-1980. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2015.07.023


  • Addiction
  • Substance abuse
  • Reward system
  • Personality trait
  • Midbrain
  • Prefrontal cortex


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