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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011 Oct;217(3):367-75. doi: 10.1007/s00213-011-2292-6. Epub 2011 Apr 15.

Chronic cocaine exposure induces putamen glutamate and glutamine metabolite abnormalities in squirrel monkeys.

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  • 1Brain Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill, St. Belmont, MA 02478, USA.



Chronic cocaine exposure has been associated with progressive brain structural and functional changes. Clarifying mechanisms underlying cocaine's progressive brain effects may help in the development of effective cocaine abuse treatments.


We used a controlled squirrel monkey model of chronic cocaine exposure (45 mg/kg/week for 9 months) combined with ultra-high magnetic field (9.4 T) proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy to prospectively measure putamen metabolite changes.


Proton metabolites were measured with a STEAM sequence, quantified with LCModel using a simulated basis set, and expressed as metabolite/total creatine (tCr) ratios.


We found cocaine-induced time-dependent changes in putamen glutamate/tCr and glutamine/tCr metabolite ratios suggestive of altered glutamate compartmentalization, neurotransmission, and metabolism. By contrast, saline-treated monkeys exhibited no metabolite changes over time. The time course of cocaine-induced metabolite abnormalities we detected is consistent with the apparent time course of glutamate abnormalities identified in a cross-sectional study in human cocaine users, as well as with microdialysis findings in rodent models of repeated cocaine exposure.


Together, these findings suggests that this squirrel monkey model may be useful for characterizing glutamatergic changes associated with cocaine exposure and for determining efficacies of treatments designed to mitigate cocaine-induced glutamatergic system dysfunction.

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