Low Striatal Dopamine D2-type Receptor Availability is Linked to Simulated Drug Choice in Methamphetamine Users

Scott J. Moeller, Kyoji Okita, Chelsea L. Robertson, Michael E. Ballard, Anna B. Konova, Rita Z. Goldstein, Mark A. Mandelkern, Edythe D. London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Individuals with drug use disorders seek drugs over other rewarding activities, and exhibit neurochemical deficits related to dopamine, which is involved in value-based learning and decision-making. Thus, a dopaminergic disturbance may underpin drug-biased choice in addiction. Classical drug-choice assessments, which offer drug-consumption opportunities, are inappropriate for addicted individuals seeking treatment or abstaining. Fifteen recently abstinent methamphetamine users and 15 healthy controls completed two laboratory paradigms of â 'simulated' drug choice (choice for drug-related vs affectively pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral images), and underwent positron emission tomography measurements of dopamine D2-type receptor availability, indicated by binding potential (BP ND) for [18 F]fallypride. Thirteen of the methamphetamine users and 10 controls also underwent [11 C]NNC112 PET scans to measure dopamine D1-type receptor availability. Group analyses showed that, compared with controls, methamphetamine users chose to view more methamphetamine-related images on one task, with a similar trend on the second task. Regression analyses showed that, on both tasks, the more methamphetamine users chose to view methamphetamine images, specifically vs pleasant images (the most frequently chosen images across all participants), the lower was their D2-type BP ND in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, an important region in value-based choice. No associations were observed with D2-type BP ND in striatal regions, or with D1-type BP ND in any region. These results identify a neurochemical correlate for a laboratory drug-seeking paradigm that can be administered to treatment-seeking and abstaining drug-addicted individuals. More broadly, these results refine the central hypothesis that dopamine-system deficits contribute to drug-biased decision-making in addiction, here showing a role for the orbitofrontal cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)751-760
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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