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Accumbal-thalamic connectivity and associated glutamate alterations in human cocaine craving: A state-dependent rs-fMRI and 1H-MRS study


Engeli, Etna J E; Russo, Andrea G; Ponticorvo, Sara; Zoelch, Niklaus; Hock, Andreas; Hulka, Lea M; Kirschner, Matthias; Preller, Katrin H; Seifritz, Erich; Quednow, Boris B; Esposito, Fabrizio; Herdener, Marcus (2023). Accumbal-thalamic connectivity and associated glutamate alterations in human cocaine craving: A state-dependent rs-fMRI and 1H-MRS study. NeuroImage: Clinical, 39:103490.

Abstract

Craving is a core symptom of cocaine use disorder and a major factor for relapse risk. To date, there is no pharmacological therapy to treat this disease or at least to alleviate cocaine craving as a core symptom. In animal models, impaired prefrontal-striatal signalling leading to altered glutamate release in the nucleus accumbens appear to be the prerequisite for cocaine-seeking. Thus, those network and metabolic changes may constitute the underlying mechanisms for cocaine craving and provide a potential treatment target. In humans, there is recent evidence for corresponding glutamatergic alterations in the nucleus accumbens, however, the underlying network disturbances that lead to this glutamate imbalance remain unknown. In this state-dependent randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, cross-over multimodal study, resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging in combination with small-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (voxel size: 9.4 × 18.8 × 8.4 mm3) was applied to assess network-level and associated neurometabolic changes during a non-craving and a craving state, induced by a custom-made cocaine-cue film, in 18 individuals with cocaine use disorder and 23 healthy individuals. Additionally, we assessed the potential impact of a short-term challenge of N-acetylcysteine, known to normalize disturbed glutamate homeostasis and to thereby reduce cocaine-seeking in animal models of addiction, compared to a placebo. We found increased functional connectivity between the nucleus accumbens and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during the cue-induced craving state. However, those changes were not linked to alterations in accumbal glutamate levels. Whereas we additionally found increased functional connectivity between the nucleus accumbens and a midline part of the thalamus during the cue-induced craving state. Furthermore, obsessive thinking about cocaine and the actual intensity of cocaine use were predictive of cue-induced functional connectivity changes between the nucleus accumbens and the thalamus. Finally, the increase in accumbal-thalamic connectivity was also coupled with craving-related glutamate rise in the nucleus accumbens. Yet, N-acetylcysteine had no impact on craving-related changes in functional connectivity. Together, these results suggest that connectivity changes within the fronto-accumbal-thalamic loop, in conjunction with impaired glutamatergic transmission, underlie cocaine craving and related clinical symptoms, pinpointing the thalamus as a crucial hub for cocaine craving in humans.

Abstract

Craving is a core symptom of cocaine use disorder and a major factor for relapse risk. To date, there is no pharmacological therapy to treat this disease or at least to alleviate cocaine craving as a core symptom. In animal models, impaired prefrontal-striatal signalling leading to altered glutamate release in the nucleus accumbens appear to be the prerequisite for cocaine-seeking. Thus, those network and metabolic changes may constitute the underlying mechanisms for cocaine craving and provide a potential treatment target. In humans, there is recent evidence for corresponding glutamatergic alterations in the nucleus accumbens, however, the underlying network disturbances that lead to this glutamate imbalance remain unknown. In this state-dependent randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, cross-over multimodal study, resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging in combination with small-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (voxel size: 9.4 × 18.8 × 8.4 mm3) was applied to assess network-level and associated neurometabolic changes during a non-craving and a craving state, induced by a custom-made cocaine-cue film, in 18 individuals with cocaine use disorder and 23 healthy individuals. Additionally, we assessed the potential impact of a short-term challenge of N-acetylcysteine, known to normalize disturbed glutamate homeostasis and to thereby reduce cocaine-seeking in animal models of addiction, compared to a placebo. We found increased functional connectivity between the nucleus accumbens and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during the cue-induced craving state. However, those changes were not linked to alterations in accumbal glutamate levels. Whereas we additionally found increased functional connectivity between the nucleus accumbens and a midline part of the thalamus during the cue-induced craving state. Furthermore, obsessive thinking about cocaine and the actual intensity of cocaine use were predictive of cue-induced functional connectivity changes between the nucleus accumbens and the thalamus. Finally, the increase in accumbal-thalamic connectivity was also coupled with craving-related glutamate rise in the nucleus accumbens. Yet, N-acetylcysteine had no impact on craving-related changes in functional connectivity. Together, these results suggest that connectivity changes within the fronto-accumbal-thalamic loop, in conjunction with impaired glutamatergic transmission, underlie cocaine craving and related clinical symptoms, pinpointing the thalamus as a crucial hub for cocaine craving in humans.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
04 Faculty of Medicine > Neuroscience Center Zurich
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging
Life Sciences > Neurology
Health Sciences > Neurology (clinical)
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Uncontrolled Keywords:Cognitive Neuroscience, Neurology (clinical), Neurology, Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and imaging
Language:English
Date:1 January 2023
Deposited On:08 Dec 2023 08:56
Last Modified:29 Apr 2024 01:41
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:2213-1582
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2023.103490
PubMed ID:37639901
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)