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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Leonard L. Howell, Email: lhowell@emory.edu

Acknowledgments: The authors gratefully acknowledge the technical assistance of Tango Howard, James Jordan, Delicia Votaw, Kevin Murnane, and Peggy Plant.


Research Funding:

This research was supported by US Public Health Service Grants DA10344, DA00517, and RR00165 (Division of Research Resources, National Institutes of Health).


  • Cocaine
  • Cerebral blood flow
  • PET imaging
  • Self-administration
  • Extinction
  • Nonhuman primates

Cortical activation during cocaine use and extinction in rhesus monkeys


Journal Title:



Volume 208, Number 2


, Pages 191-199

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Rationale Acute re-exposure to cocaine or drug cues associated with cocaine use can elicit drug craving and relapse. Neuroimaging studies have begun to define neurobiological substrates underlying the acute effects of cocaine or cocaine cues in cocaine-dependent subjects. Objective The present study was the first to use functional brain imaging to document acute cocaine-induced changes in brain activity during active drug use in nonhuman primates. Materials and methods Positron emission tomography imaging with O15-labeled water was used to measure drug-induced changes in cerebral blood flow. The acute effects of cocaine administered noncontingently were characterized in four drug-naïve rhesus monkeys. The same subjects were trained to self-administer cocaine under a fixed ratio schedule during image acquisition. Subsequently, three subjects with an extensive history of cocaine use were trained to self-administer cocaine under a secondorder schedule. The same subjects also underwent extinction sessions during which saline was substituted for cocaine under the second-order schedule. Results Noncontingent administration of cocaine in drugnaïve subjects induced robust activation of prefrontal cortex localized primarily to the dorsolateral regions. In contrast, the pattern of brain activation induced by self-administered cocaine differed qualitatively and included anterior cingulate cortex. Moreover, drug-associated stimuli during extinction also induced robust activation of prefrontal cortex. Conclusions The effects of cocaine and associated cues extend beyond the limbic system to engage brain areas involved in cognitive processes. The identification of neural circuits underlying the direct pharmacological and conditioned stimulus effects of cocaine may be highly relevant toward efforts to develop treatments for cocaine addiction.

Copyright information:

© Springer-Verlag 2009

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