In this project we study the effects of drugs of abuse on the brain. Using novel-, and conventional imaging techniques we investigate the effects of cocaine, MDMA (xtc) and amphetamine on brain and behavior. For instance, we were the first to report that MDMA dose-dependently affects the serotonergic system, in which women are more susceptible than men. On the long-term, the serotonin system seems to recover, although memory impairment persists. Also, we found that MDMA use is associated with smaller hippocampal volume which could explain the persisting memory deficits.
Recently, we found for the first time that amphetamine (dAMPH) use is associated with dopamine dysfunction as evidenced by: significantly lower striatal DA D2/3 receptor binding, a blunted dopamine (DA) release and DA functionality to an acute dAMPH challenge, as well as a blunted subjective response. Finally, the lower D2/3 availability, the more pleasant the dAMPH administration was experienced by control subjects, but not by dAMPH users. Together with Dr. J. Homberg (Donders Institute Nijmegen), we are currently investigating the role of serotonin in the cause and cure of cocaine dependence.