Study sheds light on tik abusers

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tik may 11 INLSA File photo: Jeffrey Abrahams

Cape Town - People with a history of tik abuse have oversensitive brains, possibly putting them at risk for impulsive behaviour, a local study has found.

A collaborative research project between Stellenbosch University and UCT analysed the brain activity of tik abusers and those who never abused drugs. Researchers found that those with a history of abuse were easily excited when receiving rewards - something researchers think might be a possible explanation for their addiction.

Dr Stéfan du Plessis, one of the researchers from Stellenbosch University’s department of psychiatry, said the study, which investigated the effects of tik on the brain, also found that abusers battled with attention control and were impulsive.

During the neuropsychological testing, which tested among other things the participants’ IQ, memory and concentration levels, the researchers found that while those with a history of abuse were slower in their tasks and made more errors on colour word tests, when offered a reward their brains were more active.

“It is normal for everybody to be excited when offered rewards, but the abuser’s experience of the reward was more intense than those who never took drugs. We don’t know why their reward network is abnormally active.

“It could be that the drug has caused some damage to their brain or it could be genetic.”

Du Plessis said more investigation needed to be done on why their brains reacted in this manner.

“But we know that a brain that is over-sensitive to rewards is associated with impulsiveness.

“If you are impulsive you are likely to take irrational decisions… this reaction could possibly explain their addiction.”

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Cape Argus

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