Glutamatergic and neurometabolic alterations in chronic cocaine users measured with (1) H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy

Addict Biol. 2016 Jan;21(1):205-17. doi: 10.1111/adb.12217. Epub 2014 Dec 30.


Cocaine addiction is a chronically relapsing disorder that is associated with harmful consequences. Relapses occur frequently and effective pharmacotherapies are currently sparse. Preclinical studies suggest that altered glutamatergic signaling is crucial for the maintenance of cocaine self-administration. However, the translational validity of these models is currently unknown. Therefore, we investigated potential differences of glutamate, glutamine and further metabolite levels in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC) and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC) of chronic cocaine users and controls using the PRior knOwledge FITting 2.0 tool in combination with two-dimensional J-resolved single-voxel (1) H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy at 3T and voxel tissue composition and relaxation correction. Glutamate and glutamine levels did not differ between cocaine users and controls, but higher weekly cocaine use and higher cocaine hair concentrations were associated with lower glutamine/creatine ratios in the pgACC. Interestingly, cocaine users exhibited higher glucose/total creatine ratios than controls in the pgACC and higher choline/creatine ratios in the pgACC and rDLPFC. These results imply that cocaine use is associated with altered cortical glucose metabolism and membrane turnover. Finally, cocaine use over the past 6 months appears to decrease cortical glutamine levels indicating changes in glutamate cycling.

Keywords: Anterior cingulate cortex; choline; cocaine addiction; glutamate; glutamine; magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Choline / metabolism*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / metabolism*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / pathology
  • Creatine / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / metabolism*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inositol / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Glutamine
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Inositol
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • Creatine
  • Choline