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Conflict monitoring and emotional processing in 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and methamphetamine users – A comparative neurophysiological study


Opitz, Antje; Zimmermann, Josua; Cole, David M; Coray, Rebecca C; Zachäi, Anna; Baumgartner, Markus R; Steuer, Andrea Eva; Pilhatsch, Maximilian; Quednow, Boris B.; Beste, Christian; Stock, Ann-Kathrin (2024). Conflict monitoring and emotional processing in 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and methamphetamine users – A comparative neurophysiological study. NeuroImage: Clinical, 41:103579.

Abstract

In stimulant use and addiction, conflict control processes are crucial for regulating substance use and sustaining abstinence, which can be particularly challenging in social-affective situations. Users of methamphetamine (METH, “Ice”) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “Ecstasy”) both experience impulse control deficits, but display different social-affective and addictive profiles. We thus aimed to compare the effects of chronic use of the substituted amphetamines METH and MDMA on conflict control processes in different social-affective contexts (i.e., anger and happiness) and investigate their underlying neurophysiological mechanisms. For this purpose, chronic but recently abstinent users of METH (n = 38) and MDMA (n = 42), as well as amphetamine-naïve healthy controls (n = 83) performed an emotional face-word Stroop paradigm, while event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. Instead of substance-specific differences, both MDMA and METH users showed smaller behavioral effects of cognitive-emotional conflict processing (independently of emotional valence) and selective deficits in emotional processing of anger content. Both effects were underpinned by stronger P3 ERP modulations suggesting that users of substituted amphetamines employ altered stimulus–response mapping and decision-making. Given that these processes are modulated by noradrenaline and that both MDMA and METH use may be associated with noradrenergic dysfunctions, the noradrenaline system may underlie the observed substance-related similarities. Better understanding the functional relevance of this currently still under-researched neurotransmitter and its functional changes in chronic users of substituted amphetamines is thus an important avenue for future research.

Abstract

In stimulant use and addiction, conflict control processes are crucial for regulating substance use and sustaining abstinence, which can be particularly challenging in social-affective situations. Users of methamphetamine (METH, “Ice”) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “Ecstasy”) both experience impulse control deficits, but display different social-affective and addictive profiles. We thus aimed to compare the effects of chronic use of the substituted amphetamines METH and MDMA on conflict control processes in different social-affective contexts (i.e., anger and happiness) and investigate their underlying neurophysiological mechanisms. For this purpose, chronic but recently abstinent users of METH (n = 38) and MDMA (n = 42), as well as amphetamine-naïve healthy controls (n = 83) performed an emotional face-word Stroop paradigm, while event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. Instead of substance-specific differences, both MDMA and METH users showed smaller behavioral effects of cognitive-emotional conflict processing (independently of emotional valence) and selective deficits in emotional processing of anger content. Both effects were underpinned by stronger P3 ERP modulations suggesting that users of substituted amphetamines employ altered stimulus–response mapping and decision-making. Given that these processes are modulated by noradrenaline and that both MDMA and METH use may be associated with noradrenergic dysfunctions, the noradrenaline system may underlie the observed substance-related similarities. Better understanding the functional relevance of this currently still under-researched neurotransmitter and its functional changes in chronic users of substituted amphetamines is thus an important avenue for future research.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:340 Law
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 Conflict control, ERP, MDMA, Methamphetamine, Social cognition, Stroop effect
Language:English
Date:15 February 2024
Deposited On:22 Mar 2024 07:29
Last Modified:23 Mar 2024 21:00
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:2213-1582
Additional Information:Role of the funding source The funding parties had no role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication. Funding This international collaborative study was supported by grants from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) TRR 265 B07 to AS and CB, BE4045/34–1 to CB and from the Swiss National Science Foundation (Schweizerischer Nationalfonds, SNF) 320030L_179450 to BBQ. Acknowledgements We would like to thank all our participants for taking the time to participate in this study. We would also like to thank Mona Hofmann, Klara Macht, Lilly Puls, Lea Winkelius, Samia Borra, Mariana Carrillo Vázquez, Selina Caviezel, Nicole Friedli, Marco Guglielmo, Xenia Häfeli, Mauro Mey, Anna‑Katharina Schmid, Babette Winter, the staff at the addiction clinic Wermsdorf (Germany), and everyone else who contributed to data collection.
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2024.103579
PubMed ID:38447413
Project Information:
  • : FunderDeutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG
  • : Grant IDTRR 265 B07 to AS
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderDeutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG
  • : Grant IDTRR 265 B07 to CB
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderDeutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG
  • : Grant IDBE4045/34–1 to CB
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderSchweizerischer Nationalfonds, SNF
  • : Grant ID320030L_179450 to BBQ.
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)