Methamphetamine enhances neural activation during anticipation of loss in the monetary incentive delay task

Cereb Cortex Commun. 2023 Jul 20;4(3):tgad014. doi: 10.1093/texcom/tgad014. eCollection 2023.


Stimulants like methamphetamine (MA) affect motivated behaviors via actions on circuits mediating mood, attention, and reward. Few studies examined the effects of single doses of stimulants on reward circuits during anticipation and receipt of rewards and losses. Here, we examined the effects of MA (20 mg) or placebo in a within-subject, double-blind study with healthy adults (n = 43). During 2 fMRI sessions, participants completed the monetary incentive delay task. Primary outcome measures were BOLD activation in selected regions of interest during anticipation and receipt of monetary rewards and losses. Secondary analyses included behavioral measures, whole brain analysis, and arterial spin labeling. MA produced its expected behavioral effects and increased neural activation in the ventral striatum and anterior insula during anticipation of monetary loss versus non-loss. MA did not affect activation during anticipation of gains, or during receipt of wins or losses. MA significantly reduced cerebral blood flow in the striatum and insula. The present finding that a stimulant enhances the responses of striatal and insular regions to upcoming loss suggests that this system may be sensitive to the salience of upcoming events. The finding adds to a complex body of evidence regarding the effects of stimulant drugs on neural processes during motivated behaviors.

Keywords: fMRI; methamphetamine; reward; stimulant; ventral striatum.