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Journal Article

Methylphenidate reduces functional connectivity of nucleus accumbens in brain reward circuit

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Ramaekers, J. G., Evers, E. A., Theunissen, E. L., Kuypers, K. P., Goulas, A., & Stiers, P. (2013). Methylphenidate reduces functional connectivity of nucleus accumbens in brain reward circuit. Psychopharmacology, 229(2), 219-226. doi:10.1007/s00213-013-3105-x.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-67E7-9
Release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) is essential for acute drug reward. The present study was designed to trace the reinforcing effect of dopamine release by measuring the functional connectivity (FC) between the NAcc and brain regions involved in a limbic cortical–subcortical circuit during a dopaminergic challenge. Twenty healthy volunteers received single doses of methylphenidate (40 mg) and placebo on separate test days according to a double-blind, cross-over study design. Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was measured between 1.5 and 2 h postdosing. FC between regions of interest (ROI) in the NAcc, the medial dorsal nucleus (MDN) of the thalamus and remote areas within the limbic circuit was explored. Methylphenidate significantly reduced FC between the NAcc and the basal ganglia (i.e., subthalamic nucleus and ventral pallidum (VP)), relative to placebo. Methylphenidate also decreased FC between the NAcc and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) as well as the temporal cortex. Methylphenidate did not affect FC between MDN and the limbic circuit. It is concluded that methylphenidate directly affects the limbic reward circuit. Drug-induced changes in FC of the NAcc may serve as a useful marker of drug activity in in the brain reward circuit.