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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2000 Aug 1;60(2):207-16.

Neural responses associated with cue evoked emotional states and heroin in opiate addicts.

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  • 1National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, 4 Windsor Walk, SE5 8AF, London, UK.


Ten male opiate addicts, who were current heroin injectors, underwent positron emission tomographic (PET) scanning during exposure to a sequence of six alternating drug related and neutral video cues, on two occasions. After the second scan, each subject received heroin or placebo using a randomised single-blind procedure. This design allowed the investigation of patterns of brain activity during a range of self-reported cue evoked emotional states, both in the presence and absence of heroin. Self-reports of 'urge to use' correlated strongly with increased regional blood flow (rCBF) in the inferior frontal and orbitofrontal cortex target regions of the mesolimbic dopaminergic system, implicated in conditioning and reward. 'Urge to use' was also associated with highly significant increased rCBF in the right pre-cuneus, an area associated with episodic memory retrieval, and in the left insula, implicated in the processing of the emotional components of stimuli. Self-reports of feeling 'high' correlated with rCBF activation in the hippocampus, an area relevant to the acquisition of stimulus-associated reinforcement.

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