Expectation effects on brain dopamine responses to methylphenidate in cocaine use disorder

Gene Jack Wang, Corinde E. Wiers, Elena Shumay, Dardo Tomasi, Kai Yuan, Christopher T. Wong, Jean Logan, Joanna S. Fowler, Nora D. Volkow

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17 Scopus citations


The response to drugs of abuse is affected by expectation, which is modulated in part by dopamine (DA), which encodes for a reward prediction error. Here we assessed the effect of expectation on methylphenidate (MP)-induced striatal DA changes in 23 participants with an active cocaine use disorder (CUD) and 23 healthy controls (HC) using [ 11 C]raclopride and PET both after placebo (PL) and after MP (0.5 mg/kg, i.v.). Brain dopamine D2 and D3 receptor availability (D2R: non-displaceable binding potential (BP ND )) was measured under four conditions in randomized order: (1) expecting PL/receiving PL, (2) expecting PL/receiving MP, (3) expecting MP/receiving PL, and (4) expecting MP/receiving MP. Expecting MP increased pulse rate compared to expecting PL. Receiving MP decreased D2R in striatum compared to PL, indicating MP-induced striatal DA release, and this effect was significantly blunted in CUD versus HC consistent with prior findings of decreased striatal dopamine responses both in active and detoxified CUD. There was a group × challenge × expectation effect in caudate and midbrain, with expectation of MP increasing MP-induced DA release in HC but not in CUD, and expectation of PL showing a trend to increase MP-induced DA release in CUD but not in HC. These results are consistent with the role of DA in reward prediction error in the human brain: decreasing DA signaling when rewards are less than expected (blunted DA increases to MP in CUD) and increasing them when greater than expected (for PL in CUD reflecting conditioned responses to injection). Our findings also document disruption of the expectation of drug effects in dopamine signaling in participants with CUD compared to non-addicted individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number93
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


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