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The Effects of Dopamine on Reward Processing

This study has been completed.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Diego A. Pizzagalli, Mclean Hospital Identifier:
First received: December 1, 2010
Last updated: December 27, 2016
Last verified: December 2016

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effects of a single low dose of the D2/D3 antagonist amisulpride on reward processing. More generally, this study will test the role of dopamine (a naturally occurring brain chemical) in depression.


Administration of a single low dose of the D2/D3 antagonist amisulpride will (1) improve performance in a behavioral task assessing learning from feedback and (2) boost activation in reward-related brain regions.

Condition Intervention
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
Drug: Amisulpride
Drug: Placebo

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Double Blind (Participant, Investigator)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: The Effects of Dopamine on Reward Processing

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by Mclean Hospital:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Performance on a behavioral task assessing learning from positive and negative feedback. [ Time Frame: one-time task, administered during session 2 ]
  • Brain activation during a task involving monetary rewards. [ Time Frame: one-time task, administered at session 2 ]
  • Brain activation to social positive and negative feedback [ Time Frame: second session ]
    Brain activation to social positive and negative feedback

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Ratings of mood and affect. [ Time Frame: administered at sessions 1 and 2 ]

Enrollment: 72
Study Start Date: February 2012
Study Completion Date: May 2016
Primary Completion Date: May 2016 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Active Comparator: Amisulpride
single low-dose pharmacological challenge, 50 mg amisulpride capsule
Drug: Amisulpride
single low-dose pharmacological challenge, 50 mg amisulpride
Other Name: Solian
Placebo Comparator: Placebo
single-dose placebo capsule
Drug: Placebo
single-dose placebo capsule

Detailed Description:

Through an integration of an fMRI approach coupled with a pharmacological challenge, the goal of the current study will be to investigate the role of dopamine in MDD. Participants in this research will include 36 MDD subjects and 36 demographically matched healthy participants recruited from the community by Dr. Pizzagalli's laboratory at McLean Hospital's Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research. This study will include two sessions:

  • The first session will involve a diagnostic interview, and a series of questionnaires and assessments.
  • The second session will take place at the McLean Hospital's Neuroimaging Center, and include the administration of a low-dose of amisulpride (50 mg capsule) or placebo, followed by an fMRI brain scan and administration of two behavioral tasks.

Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 45 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Inclusion Criteria for MDD Subjects:

    1. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) diagnostic criteria for MDD, diagnosed with the use of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM Disorders (SCID);
    2. Written informed consent;
    3. Both genders and all ethnic origins, age between 18 and 45;
    4. A baseline HRSD score > 16 (17-item version);
    5. Right-handed.
    6. Absence of any psychotropic medications for at least 2 weeks:

      • 6 weeks for fluoxetine,
      • 6 months for neuroleptics,
      • 2 weeks for benzodiazepines,
      • 2 weeks for any other antidepressants.

Inclusion Criteria for Control Subjects:

  1. Absence of medical, neurological, and psychiatric illness (including alcohol and substance abuse), as assessed by subject history and a structured clinical interview (SCID-I/NP);
  2. Written informed consent;
  3. Both genders and all ethnic origins, age between 18 and 45;
  4. Right-handed;
  5. Absence of any medications for at least 3 weeks;
  6. Absence of pregnancy.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Exclusion Criteria for All Subjects:

    1. Subjects with suicidal ideation where outpatient treatment is determined unsafe by the study clinician. These patients will be immediately referred to appropriate clinical treatment;
    2. Pregnant women or women of childbearing potential who are not using a medically accepted means of contraception (defined as oral contraceptive pill or implant, condom, diaphragm, spermicide, IUD, s/p tubal ligation, or partner with vasectomy);
    3. Serious or unstable medical illness, including cardiovascular, hepatic, renal, respiratory, endocrine, neurological or hematologic disease;
    4. Lifetime history of seizure disorder;
    5. Lifetime history or current diagnosis of any of the following DSM-IV psychiatric illnesses: organic mental disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, psychotic disorders not otherwise specified, bipolar disorder, patients with mood congruent or mood incongruent psychotic features, substance dependence, substance abuse within the last 12 months (with the exception of alcohol abuse within the last 12 months, which is permissible for MDD subjects); eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (lifetime PTSD is exclusionary for control subjects, PTSD within the last 24 months is exclusionary for MDD subjects); simple phobia, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorders will be allowed only if secondary to MDD;
    6. More than five instances of lifetime cocaine or stimulant use (e.g., amphetamine, cocaine, methamphetamine);
    7. Use of dopaminergic drugs (including methylphenidate) within the last 6 months;
    8. Lifetime history or current diagnosis of dementia, or a score of < 26 on the Mini Mental Status Examination at the screening visit;
    9. Lifetime history of adverse drug reactions or allergy to the study drug (amisulpride);
    10. Patients with mood congruent or mood incongruent psychotic features;
    11. Current use of other psychotropic drugs;
    12. Clinical or laboratory evidence of hypothyroidism;
    13. Patients with a lifetime history of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT);
    14. Patients with renal insufficiency;
    15. Failure to meet standard MRI safety requirements
    16. Electrolytes, BUN, Creatinine: outside the normal range (also ruling out renal insufficiency);
    17. Liver function tests (SGOT, SGPT, CPK, alkaline phosphatase, total bilirubin) above 1.5X upper normal;
    18. QTc interval in EKG above 450 ms or EKG indicative of arrhythmia or cardiac conduction abnormalities;
    19. Diabetes with poor glucose control;
    20. Cardiac disease, bradycardia less than 55 bpm, hypokalemia, congenital prolongation of QT interval or on-going treatment with a medication likely to induce one of these conditions.
    21. Currently in cognitive-behavioral therapy
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT01253421

United States, Massachusetts
McLean Hospital
Belmont, Massachusetts, United States, 02478
Sponsors and Collaborators
Mclean Hospital
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Principal Investigator: Diego A Pizzagalli, PhD McLean Hospital, Harvard University
  More Information

Responsible Party: Diego A. Pizzagalli, Director, Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research, Mclean Hospital Identifier: NCT01253421     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 2010-P001568
R01MH068376 ( US NIH Grant/Contract Award Number )
Study First Received: December 1, 2010
Last Updated: December 27, 2016

Keywords provided by Mclean Hospital:
Major Depressive Disorder

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Depressive Disorder
Depressive Disorder, Major
Mood Disorders
Mental Disorders
Behavioral Symptoms
Antipsychotic Agents
Tranquilizing Agents
Central Nervous System Depressants
Physiological Effects of Drugs
Psychotropic Drugs
Dopamine Antagonists
Dopamine Agents
Neurotransmitter Agents
Molecular Mechanisms of Pharmacological Action
Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
Antidepressive Agents
Cardiotonic Agents
Autonomic Agents
Peripheral Nervous System Agents
Protective Agents processed this record on April 25, 2017