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Reward Processing in Cocaine Addiction

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT01036074
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : December 21, 2009
Last Update Posted : May 22, 2019
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)

Brief Summary:


- Cocaine affects the brain's ability to process information. However, different people respond to cocaine in different ways, and differences in brain structure and function may affect how cocaine alters brain activity. By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor brain activity during tasks that provide simple rewards, researchers hope to better understand how the brain responds to rewards and how this response is affected by drugs like cocaine.


  • To determine the effect of cocaine administration on the reward experience in cocaine-dependent individuals.
  • To study genetic and personality factors that may contribute to cocaine dependence.


- Individuals between 18 and 45 years of age who either are cocaine-dependent and not seeking treatment or are healthy volunteers.


  • Participants will be asked to avoid consuming alcohol and restrict consumption of caffeine prior to the study. Participants provide urine and breath samples to be tested for chemicals that may interfere with the study.
  • All participants will complete a training session and at least one fMRI scanning session. During the training session, participants will be introduced to the reward tasks and MRI equipment.
  • Healthy volunteers will have a single fMRI session that will involve reward tasks to be completed during the scanning. Rewards will include small amounts of fruit juice and the opportunity to win money.
  • Cocaine-dependent participants will have a training session and three experimental sessions including 1) a mock MRI scan to test cocaine tolerance, 2) one fMRI scan with reward tasks after administration of IV cocaine, and 3) one fMRI scan with reward tasks after administration of IV placebo (saline solution). Rewards will include small amounts of fruit juice and the opportunity to win money.
  • In addition to the scans, participants will provide a blood sample for further study and will answer questionnaires provided by the researchers....

Condition or disease
Drug Abuse Cocaine Dependence

Detailed Description:


The overall objective of this study is to determine the effect that cocaine administration has upon the experience of reward in dependent individuals and the contribution of reward processing (or dysfunction) to the reinforcing effects of cocaine and the recidivism rates noted in cocaine-dependent individuals. The primary goal is to employ functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to ascertain the function of neural systems that respond to cocaine in human participants and to determine the role that they play in the processing of different types of rewarding stimuli during episodes where individuals are drug-free and those where they are under the acute influence of cocaine.

Study Population:

The experimental population for this investigation will be non-treatment seeking, cocaine-dependent adults (i.e. 18 45 years old). A cohort of healthy, drug-free, individuals, matched for age, gender, ethnicity and IQ, will serve as a control group.


This experiment employs a mixed-measures, counter-balanced design. Participants will complete two measures of reward processing (i.e. the revised monetary incentive delay (MID) task and a temporal difference error task (TDE/juice) task) while undergoing BOLD EPI fMRI. The scanning procedure will be repeated for all subjects, such that each participant undertakes 2 sessions. Cocaine-dependent individuals will receive either two injections of cocaine (30 mg/70 kg body weight; intravenous (IV) administration) or two injections of saline during scanning. Within each session, each IV injection will be given approximately 10 minute prior to the start of one of the reward measures. The order of cocaine and saline scans will be randomized and participants will be blind to the experimental condition prior to participation.

Outcome Measures:

The primary outcome measures will be the neural substrates of reward processing and how these differ between cocaine-dependent individuals and controls, and the impact of acute cocaine administration upon brain function associated with reward function.

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Study Type : Observational
Actual Enrollment : 90 participants
Official Title: Reward Processing in Cocaine Addiction
Study Start Date : March 17, 2005
Study Completion Date : April 8, 2013

Resource links provided by the National Library of Medicine

Information from the National Library of Medicine

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Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 50 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No


Participants in both groups must be:

  1. Generally healthy.
  2. Right handed.
  3. Males or non-pregnant/non-lactating females.
  4. Between the ages of 18-45, for cocaine dependent participants; 18-50 for control participants.

Cocaine-dependent participants must also:

  1. Meet DSM-IV criteria for dependence at the time of participation.
  2. Be positive for cocaine use in their urine toxicology screen either at their screening visit or on another occasion prior to their entry to the study (please note that this could be as late as the day of study entry).
  3. Use either injection or smoking as their primary route of cocaine administration.



Participants in both groups will be excluded from participation in this study if they:

  1. Are unable to undergo MRI scanning due to pregnancy, implanted metallic devices (e.g. cardiac pacemaker or neurostimulator; some artificial joints metal pins; surgical clips; or other implanted metal parts), or claustrophobia.
  2. Suffer from any major medical illness that may effect central nervous function including (but not limited to): hypertension; clinically significant arrhythmia; cardiovascular disease; asthma; diabetes; peripheral vascular diseases; coagulopathies; history of superficial or deep vein thrombosis; HIV; or syphilis.
  3. Have any neurological illnesses including (but not limited to): seizure disorders; migraine; multiple sclerosis; movement disorders; or history of head trauma, CVA, or CNS tumor.
  4. Have a history of syncope
  5. Have an estimated IQ of < 85
  6. Are lactating or pregnant
  7. Are currently taking any psychoactive or vasoactive medication(s).
  8. Meet DSM-IV criteria for dependence on alcohol or marijuana. Recreational use of alcohol and/or marijuana will be tolerated in all participants as will nicotine dependence.


Cocaine-dependent individuals will also be excluded from participation if:

They have any current or previous history of any major psychiatric disorder other than cocaine dependence, including but not limited to mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders.

They have current dependence on any substance of abuse, other than cocaine or nicotine. However, current or past co-morbid abuse of alcohol, marijuana and past dependence on other substances of abuse will be tolerated in this group.

They have a history of adverse reaction to cocaine, such as cardiac arrhythmia or chest pain.


Control participants will be excluded if they:

  1. Are currently, or have previously been, dependent on alcohol or any other drug (with the exception of nicotine).
  2. Meet the DSM-IV criteria for substance abuse of any substance.
  3. Have any current, or previous, diagnosis of any major psychiatric disorder, i.e. to include (but not limited to) mood, anxiety, and psychiatric disorders, or any substance-induced psychiatric disorders.
  4. Have any family history of psychosis (based on self-report).
  5. Have previously been diagnosed with a DSM-IV Axis II disorder.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT01036074

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United States, Maryland
National Institute on Drug Abuse, Biomedical Research Center (BRC)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States, 21224
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Principal Investigator: Elliot Stein, Ph.D. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Layout table for additonal information Identifier: NCT01036074     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 999905399
First Posted: December 21, 2009    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: May 22, 2019
Last Verified: April 8, 2013

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Drug Abuse
Cocaine Dependence
Functional MRI
Pharmalogical MRI

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Cocaine-Related Disorders
Substance-Related Disorders
Chemically-Induced Disorders
Mental Disorders
Anesthetics, Local
Central Nervous System Depressants
Physiological Effects of Drugs
Sensory System Agents
Peripheral Nervous System Agents
Vasoconstrictor Agents
Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
Neurotransmitter Uptake Inhibitors
Membrane Transport Modulators
Molecular Mechanisms of Pharmacological Action
Dopamine Agents
Neurotransmitter Agents