Acute effects of cocaine on
human brain activity and emotion

Breiter HC; Gollub RL; Weisskoff RM; Kennedy DN;
Makris N; Berke JD; Goodman JM; Kantor HL;
Gastfriend DR; Riorden JP; Mathew RT; Rosen BR; Hyman SE
Department of Radiology,
Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Medical School, Boston 02129, USA.
Neuron, 1997 Sep, 19:3, 591-611


We investigated brain circuitry mediating cocaine-induced euphoria and craving using functional MRI (fMRI). During double-blind cocaine (0.6 mg/kg) and saline infusions in cocaine-dependent subjects, the entire brain was imaged for 5 min before and 13 min after infusion while subjects rated scales for rush, high, low, and craving. Cocaine induced focal signal increases in nucleus accumbens/subcallosal cortex (NAc/SCC), caudate, putamen, basal forebrain, thalamus, insula, hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus, cingulate, lateral prefrontal and temporal cortices, parietal cortex, striate/extrastriate cortices, ventral tegmentum, and pons and produced signal decreases in amygdala, temporal pole, and medial frontal cortex. Saline produced few positive or negative activations, which were localized to lateral prefrontal cortex and temporo-occipital cortex. Subjects who underwent repeat studies showed good replication of the regional fMRI activation pattern following cocaine and saline infusions, with activations on saline retest that might reflect expectancy. Brain regions that exhibited early and short duration signal maxima showed a higher correlation with rush ratings. These included the ventral tegmentum, pons, basal forebrain, caudate, cingulate, and most regions of lateral prefrontal cortex. In contrast, regions that demonstrated early but sustained signal maxima were more correlated with craving than with rush ratings; such regions included the NAc/SCC, right parahippocampal gyrus, and some regions of lateral prefrontal cortex. Sustained negative signal change was noted in the amygdala, which correlated with craving ratings. Our data demonstrate the ability of fMRI to map dynamic patterns of brain activation following cocaine infusion in cocaine-dependent subjects and provide evidence of dynamically changing brain networks associated with cocaine-induced euphoria and cocaine-induced craving.

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