Frontal Lobe Damage May Affect Meth Addicts' Recovery

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New brain imaging research finds that less activity in the brain's frontal lobes leads people to see themselves in a more positive - and less accurate - light. This has potential implications for those addicted to methamphetamine, who often have sustained frontal lobe damage through drug use. Results will be published in the February edition of NeuroImage.

The Study

While an MRI machine scanned their brains, 20 subjects shared how they viewed themselves in comparison to their peers on both positive traits (such as tact, modesty, likability and maturity) and negative traits (such as materialism, messiness, unreliability and narrow-mindedness). Subjects who viewed themselves very positively were found to use their orbitofrontal cortex - part of the frontal lobe associated with reasoning, planning, decision-making and problem-solving - less than other subjects. The subject with the most extreme positive view showed 1/4 the frontal lobe activity of subjects with accurate views of themselves.

What Does This Mean?

Since it appears the frontal lobe plays a role in self-perception, people with damage to their frontal lobe may find that they have a heightened view of themselves. While this is helpful in some situations, viewing oneself in an inaccurately positive light can have negative effects as well. One area of concern relates to recovering methamphetamine addicts, who often have damaged frontal lobes and can be prone to overestimating their ability to stay clean. This overly positive outlook can be motivating, but an associated overconfidence can also lead to incaution and relapse into drug use.

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