Dextroamphetamine enhances 'neural network-specific' physiological signals: A positron-emission tomography rCBF study

Venkata S. Mattay, Karen Faith Berman, Jill L. Ostrem, Giuseppe Esposito, John D. Van Horn, Llewellyn B. Bigelow, Daniel R. Weinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies in animals and humans suggest that monoamines enhance behavior-evoked neural activity relative to nonspecific background activity (i.e., increase signal-to-noise ratio). We studied the effects of dextroamphetamine, an indirect monoaminergic agonist, on cognitively evoked neural activity in eight healthy subjects using positron-emission tomography and the O15 water intravenous bolus method to measure regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF). Dextroamphetamine (0.25 mg/kg) or placebo was administered in a double-blind, counterbalanced design 2 hr before the rCBF study in sessions separated by 1-2 weeks. rCBF was measured while subjects performed four different tasks: two abstract reasoning tasks-the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (WCST), a neuropsychological test linked to a cortical network involving dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and other association cortices, and Ravens Progressive Matrices (RPM), a nonverbal intelligence test linked to posterior cortical systems-and two corresponding sensorimotor control tasks. There were no significant drug or task effects on pCO2 or on global blood flow. However, the effect of dextroamphetamine (i.e., dextroamphetamine vs placebo) on task-dependent rCBF activation (i.e., task - control task) showed double dissociations with respect to task and region in the very brain areas that most distinctly differentiate the tasks. In the superior portion of the left inferior frontal gyrus, dextroamphetamine increased rCBF during WCST but decreased it during RPM (ANOVA F((1.7)) = 16.72, p < 0.0046). In right hippocampus, blood flow decreased during WCST but increased during RPM (ANOVA F((1.7)) = 16.7, p < 0.0035). These findings illustrate that dextroamphetamine tends to 'focus' neural activity, to highlight the neural network that is specific for a particular cognitive task. This capacity of dextroamphetamine to induce cognitively specific signal augmentation may provide a neurobiological explanation for improved cognitive efficiency with dextroamphetamine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4816-4822
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • PET
  • dextroamphetamine
  • dopamine
  • dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • hippocampus
  • monoamines
  • rCBF
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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