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Functional Neuroimaging of Alcoholism Vulnerability: Probing Glutamate and Reward, Using the mGluR5 Inhibitor, Mavoglurant


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Principal Investigator: Dr. Ismene Petrakis. CTNA will test the central hypothesis that the heritable risk for alcoholism reflects dysfunction of cortico-striatal-midbrain circuitry, mediated by the interplay of glutamate and dopamine, that biases people to respond to drug-like rewards relative to delayed reward/punishments. This bias to respond to drug-like rewards leads to enhanced learning of alcohol-related associations, and facilitation of the development of habitual alcohol consumption. This project will test this hypothesis by assessing alcohol induced dopamine (DA) release in the striatum in at risk subjects and in patients with alcoholism to demonstrate that risk is associated with an increased alcohol-induced DA release in the striatum while the transition from risk to habit is associated with a decreased response.


This study builds on our current findings and extends the study of dopaminergic transmission to a high-risk population. It will characterize the biology of vulnerability versus habit. This could lead to developing a biomarker for identifying at risk subjects and possibly designing specific therapeutic strategies for prevention.

Participation Opportunities

Healthy control subjects with a biological father who drinks heavily

Contact: 203-932-5711 x 5688. All calls are confidential

We are looking for healthy individuals, ages 21-30, to take part in a research study designed to look at the function of dopamine receptors using PET imaging. This study will require an initial screening session which will take about 2 hours. If you are found to be eligible then you will be scheduled for an MRI which will take about 30 minutes and 2 PET Scans (on different days) which will take about 6 hours each. Both scans will be done after oral administration of a drink. On one of the scan days, the drink will contain alcohol. We may ask you to come for an additional day to complete neuropsychological assessments. You will be able to complete this study in 4-5 test days. Compensation is up to $765 for participation in all test days. HIC 1008007217, HSS IP0035

Read about other participation opportunities

Relevant Publications

  1. Urban NB, Kegeles LS, Slifstein M, Xu X, Martinez D, Sakr E, Castillo F, Moadel T, O'Malley SS, Krystal JH, Abi-Dargham A. (2010). Sex differences in striatal dopamine release in young adults after oral alcohol challenge: a positron emission tomography imaging study with [¹¹C]raclopride. Biol Psychiatry. 68(8):689-96. PMID: 20678752.
  2. Martinez D, Slifstein M, Gil R, Hwang DR, Huang Y, Perez A, Frankle WG, Laruelle M, Krystal J, Abi-Dargham A. (2009). Positron emission tomography imaging of the serotonin transporter and 5-HT(1A) receptor in alcohol dependence. Biol Psychiatry. 65(2):175-80. PMID: 18962444.
  3. Martinez D, Gil R, Slifstein M, Hwang DR, Huang Y, Perez A, Kegeles L, Talbot P, Evans S, Krystal J, Laruelle M, Abi-Dargham A. (2005). Alcohol dependence is associated with blunted dopamine transmission in the ventral striatum. Biol Psychiatry. 58(10):779-86. PMID: 16018986.
  4. Urban NB, Slifstein M, Meda, S, Xu X, Ayoub R, Medina O, Pearlson GD, Krystal JH, Abi-Dargham A. (In Review). Imaging reward function with PET and fMRI. Psychopharmacology.