Methamphetamine alters nucleus accumbens neural activation to monetary loss in healthy young adults

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2023 Sep;240(9):1891-1900. doi: 10.1007/s00213-023-06398-4. Epub 2023 Aug 2.


Rationale: Stimulant drugs like methamphetamine (MA) activate brain reward circuitry, which is linked to the development of problematic drug use. It is not clear how drugs like MA alter neural response to a non-drug reward.

Objectives: We examined how acute MA impacts neural response to receipt of a monetary reward relative to a loss in healthy adults. We hypothesized that MA (vs. placebo) would increase mesolimbic neural activation to reward, relative to loss.

Methods: In a within-subject, randomized, cross-over, double-blind, placebo-controlled design, 41 healthy adults completed the Doors monetary reward task during fMRI after ingestion of placebo or 20 mg MA. We examined drug effects on neural response to reward receipt (Win vs. Loss) using a priori anatomical striatal regions of interest (nucleus accumbens (NAcc), caudate, putamen).

Results: MA decreased NAcc BOLD activation to reward vs loss compared to placebo (p=.007) without altering caudate or putamen BOLD activation. Similar effects for reward vs. loss were obtained using whole brain analysis. Additional exploratory ROI analysis comparing reward and loss activation relative to a neutral "fixation" period indicated that MA increased NAcc BOLD activation during loss trials, without decreasing activation during win trials.

Conclusions: This preliminary evidence suggests that MA increases NAcc neural response to the receipt of monetary loss. Additional studies are needed to replicate our findings and clarify the mechanisms contributing to altered mesolimbic neural response to reward and loss receipt during stimulant intoxication.

Keywords: Amphetamine; Brain; Loss; Reward; Stimulant; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Methamphetamine* / adverse effects
  • Motivation
  • Nucleus Accumbens*
  • Reward
  • Young Adult


  • Methamphetamine