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J Neurosci. 2012 Jan 25;32(4):1329-35. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5826-11.2012.

Modulation of frontostriatal interaction aligns with reduced primary reward processing under serotonergic drugs.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Ulm, 89075 Ulm, Germany.


Recently, functional interactions between anteroventral prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens (NAcc) have been shown to relate to behavior counteracting reward-desiring (Diekhof and Gruber, 2010). Downregulation of the reward system by serotonin has also been suggested as the mode of action accounting for unsatisfactory effects of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as insufficient alleviation or even increase of anhedonia, and loss of interest. However, understanding of the in vivo mechanisms of SSRI-related alteration of the human reward system is still incomplete. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) within a double-blind cross-over within-subjects study design and administering the SSRI paroxetine, the dopamine/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor bupropione, and placebo for 7 d each, we investigated a group of 18 healthy male subjects. Under paroxetine, subjects showed significantly decreased activation of the bilateral NAcc during processing of primary rewards (erotic videos), but not under bupropion. Similar to the previous study, analysis of psychophysiological interactions revealed that this downregulation relied on negative interactions between left and right NAcc fMRI signals and the bilateral anteroventral prefrontal cortex that now were significantly enhanced under paroxetine and reduced under bupropion. Individual drug-dependent modulations of interacting brain regions were significantly associated with individual expressions of impulsivity as a personality trait. Our results corroborate and extend previous insights on interregional crosstalk from secondary to primary rewards and demonstrate parallels between active inhibitory control of and serotonergic effects on the dopaminergic reward system's activity.

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