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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Frontal responses during learning predict vulnerability to the psychotogenic effects of ketamine: linking cognition, brain activity, and psychosis.

CONTEXT: Establishing a neurobiological account of delusion formation that links cognitive processes, brain activity, and symptoms is important to furthering our understanding of psychosis. OBJECTIVE: To explore a theoretical model of delusion formation that implicates prediction error-dependent associative learning processes in a pharmacological functional magnetic resonance imaging study using the psychotomimetic drug ketamine. DESIGN: Within-subject, randomized, placebo-controlled study. SETTING: Hospital-based clinical research facility, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, England. The work was completed within the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, Cambridge. PARTICIPANTS: Fifteen healthy, right-handed volunteers (8 of whom were male) with a mean +/- SD age of 29 +/- 7 years and a mean +/- SD predicted full-scale IQ of 113 +/- 4 were recruited from within the local community by advertisement. INTERVENTIONS: Subjects were given low-dose ketamine (100 ng/mL of plasma) or placebo while performing a causal associative learning task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. In a separate session outside the scanner, the dose was increased (to 200 ng/mL of plasma) and subjects underwent a structured clinical interview. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Brain activation, blood plasma levels of ketamine, and scores from psychiatric ratings scales (Brief Psychiatric Ratings Scale, Present State Examination, and Clinician-Administered Dissociative States Scale). RESULTS: Low-dose ketamine perturbs error-dependent learning activity in the right frontal cortex (P = .03). High-dose ketamine produces perceptual aberrations (P = .01) and delusion-like beliefs (P = .007). Critically, subjects showing the highest degree of frontal activation with placebo show the greatest occurrence of drug-induced perceptual aberrations (P = .03) and ideas or delusions of reference (P = .04). CONCLUSIONS: These findings relate aberrant prediction error-dependent associative learning to referential ideas and delusions via a perturbation of frontal cortical function. They are consistent with a model of delusion formation positing disruptions in error-dependent learning.[1]


  1. Frontal responses during learning predict vulnerability to the psychotogenic effects of ketamine: linking cognition, brain activity, and psychosis. Corlett, P.R., Honey, G.D., Aitken, M.R., Dickinson, A., Shanks, D.R., Absalom, A.R., Lee, M., Pomarol-Clotet, E., Murray, G.K., McKenna, P.J., Robbins, T.W., Bullmore, E.T., Fletcher, P.C. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry (2006) [Pubmed]
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