The impact of NMDA receptor blockade on human working memory-related prefrontal function and connectivity

Naomi R. Driesen, Gregory McCarthy, Zubin Bhagwagar, Michael H. Bloch, Vincent D. Calhoun, Deepak C. D'Souza, Ralitza Gueorguieva, George He, Hoi Chung Leung, Ramachandran Ramani, Alan Anticevic, Raymond F. Suckow, Peter T. Morgan, John H. Krystal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Preclinical research suggests that N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors (NMDA-Rs) have a crucial role in working memory (WM). In this study, we investigated the role of NMDA-Rs in the brain activation and connectivity that subserve WM. Because of its importance in WM, the lateral prefrontal cortex, particularly the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and its connections, were the focus of analyses. Healthy participants (n=22) participated in a single functional magnetic resonance imaging session. They received saline and then the NMDA-R antagonist ketamine while performing a spatial WM task. Time-course analysis was used to compare lateral prefrontal activation during saline and ketamine administration. Seed-based functional connectivity analysis was used to compare dorsolateral prefrontal connectivity during the two conditions and global-based connectivity was used to test for laterality in these effects. Ketamine reduced accuracy on the spatial WM task and brain activation during the encoding and early maintenance (EEM) period of task trials. Decrements in task-related activation during EEM were related to performance deficits. Ketamine reduced connectivity in the DPFC network bilaterally, and region-specific reductions in connectivity were related to performance. These results support the hypothesis that NMDA-Rs are critical for WM. The knowledge gained may be helpful in understanding disorders that might involve glutamatergic deficits such as schizophrenia and developing better treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2613-2622
Number of pages10
Issue number13
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • NMDA
  • connectivity
  • ketamine
  • prefrontal cortex
  • schizophrenia
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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