PET studies in nonhuman primate models of cocaine abuse: translational research related to vulnerability and neuroadaptations

Neuropharmacology. 2014 Sep;84:138-51. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.02.004. Epub 2013 Feb 28.


The current review highlights the utility of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to study the neurobiological substrates underlying vulnerability to cocaine addiction and subsequent adaptations following chronic cocaine self-administration in nonhuman primate models of cocaine abuse. Environmental (e.g., social rank) and sex-specific influences on dopaminergic function and sensitivity to the reinforcing effects of cocaine are discussed. Cocaine-related cognitive deficits have been hypothesized to contribute to high rates of relapse and are described in nonhuman primate models. Lastly, the long-term consequences of cocaine on neurobiology are discussed. PET imaging and longitudinal, within-subject behavioral studies in nonhuman primates have provided a strong framework for designing pharmacological and behavioral treatment strategies to aid drug-dependent treatment seekers. Non-invasive PET imaging will allow for individualized treatment strategies. Recent advances in radiochemistry of novel PET ligands and other imaging modalities can further advance our understanding of stimulant use on the brain. This article is part of the Special Issue Section entitled 'Neuroimaging in Neuropharmacology'.

Keywords: Animal models; D2-like receptors; Dopamine; Nonhuman primates; PET imaging; Sex differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Primates
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine