Subjective Effects of Ethanol, Morphine, Δ(9)-Tetrahydrocannabinol, and Ketamine Following a Pharmacological Challenge Are Related to Functional Brain Connectivity.

Kleinloog D, Rombouts S, Zoethout R, Klumpers L, Niesters M, Khalili-Mahani N, Dahan A, van Gerven J

This analysis examines the neuronal foundation of drug-induced psychomimetic symptoms by relating the severity of these symptoms to changes in functional connectivity for a range of different psychoactive compounds with varying degrees of psychomimetic effects. The repeated measures design included 323 resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging time series and measures of subjective effects in 36 healthy male volunteers. Four different pharmacological challenges with ethanol, morphine, Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, and ketamine (12 subjects per drug) were applied. A set of 10 "template" resting-state networks was used to determine individual connectivity maps. Linear regression was used for each individual subject to relate these connectivity maps to three clusters of drug-induced subjective psychomimetic effects ("perception," "relaxation," and "dysphoria") as measured with visual analogue scales. Group analysis showed that the subjective effects of perception correlated significantly across drugs with the connectivity of the posterior cingulate cortex and precentral gyrus with the sensorimotor network (p < 0.005, corrected). No significant correlations were found for relaxation or dysphoria. The posterior cingulate cortex has a role in visuospatial evaluation and the precentral gyrus has been associated with auditory hallucinations. Both the posterior cingulate cortex and the precentral gyrus show changes in activation in patients with schizophrenia, which can be related to the severity of positive symptoms (i.e., hallucinations and delusions), and have previously been related to changes induced by psychoactive drugs. The similarity of functional connectivity changes for drug-induced psychomimetic effects and symptoms of psychosis provides further support for the use of pharmacological challenges with psychomimetic drugs as models for psychosis.