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Gray-matter volume, midbrain dopamine D2/D3 receptors and drug craving in methamphetamine users


Dysfunction of the mesocorticolimbic system has a critical role in clinical features of addiction. Despite evidence suggesting that midbrain dopamine receptors influence amphetamine-induced dopamine release and that dopamine is involved in methamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity, associations between dopamine receptors and gray-matter volume have been unexplored in methamphetamine users. Here we used magnetic resonance imaging and [(18)F]fallypride positron emission tomography, respectively, to measure gray-matter volume (in 58 methamphetamine users) and dopamine D2/D3 receptor availability (binding potential relative to nondisplaceable uptake of the radiotracer, BPnd) (in 31 methamphetamine users and 37 control participants). Relationships between these measures and self-reported drug craving were examined. Although no difference in midbrain D2/D3 BPnd was detected between methamphetamine and control groups, midbrain D2/D3 BPnd was positively correlated with gray-matter volume in the striatum, prefrontal cortex, insula, hippocampus and temporal cortex in methamphetamine users, but not in control participants (group-by-midbrain D2/D3 BPnd interaction, P<0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons). Craving for methamphetamine was negatively associated with gray-matter volume in the insula, prefrontal cortex, amygdala, temporal cortex, occipital cortex, cerebellum and thalamus (P<0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons). A relationship between midbrain D2/D3 BPnd and methamphetamine craving was not detected. Lower midbrain D2/D3 BPnd may increase vulnerability to deficits in gray-matter volume in mesocorticolimbic circuitry in methamphetamine users, possibly reflecting greater dopamine-induced toxicity. Identifying factors that influence prefrontal and limbic volume, such as midbrain BPnd, may be important for understanding the basis of drug craving, a key factor in the maintenance of substance-use disorders.

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