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Author Notes:

Corresponding Author: Leonard L. Howell, PhD, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, 954 Gatewood Rd, Atlanta, GA 30329, P: 404-727-7786, F: 404-727-1266, lhowell@emory.edu


Research Funding:

This study was supported by USPHS Grants DA10344 (LLH), DA12514 (LLH), DA00517 (LLH), T32-DA015040 (EKS), RR00165 (Yerkes National Primate Research Center), and Associacao Fundo de Incentivo a Pesquisa (AFIP), FAPESP, and CNPq (MLA). The funding sources had no other role beyond financial support.


  • drug abuse
  • neuroimaging
  • sex differences
  • cocaine
  • MRI
  • PET

Contributions of Neuroimaging to Understanding Sex Differences in Cocaine Abuse


Journal Title:

Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology


Volume 20, Number 1


, Pages 2-15

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


A consistent observation in drug abuse research is that males and females show differences in their response to drugs of abuse. In order to understand the neurobiology underlying cocaine abuse and effective treatments, it is important to consider the role of sex differences. Sex hormones have been investigated in both behavioral and molecular studies, but further evidence addressing drug abuse and dependence in both sexes would expand our knowledge of sex-differences in response to drugs of abuse. Neuroimaging is a powerful tool that can offer insight into the biological bases of these differences and meet the challenges of directly examining drug-induced changes in brain function. As such, neuroimaging has drawn much interest in recent years. Specifically, positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology have emerged as effective non-invasive approaches for human and animal models. Studies have revealed sex-specific changes in patterns of brain activity in response to acute cocaine injection and following prolonged cocaine use. SPECT and PET studies have demonstrated changes in the dopamine transporter but are less clear on other components of the dopaminergic system. This review highlights contributions of neuroimaging toward understanding the role of sex differences in the drug abuse field, specifically regarding cocaine, and identifies relevant questions that neuroimaging can effectively address.

Copyright information:

©2013 American Psychological Association

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