Effects of haloperidol and aripiprazole on the human mesolimbic motivational system: a pharmacological fMRI study

Ingeborg Bolstad, Ole A Andreassen, Inge Groote, Andres Server, Ivar Sjaastad, Shitij Kapur, Jimmy Jensen

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    8 Citations (Scopus)


    The atypical antipsychotic drug aripiprazole is a partial dopamine (DA) D2 receptor agonist, which differentiates it from most other antipsychotics. This study compares the brain activation characteristic produced by aripiprazole with that of haloperidol, a typical D2 receptor antagonist. Healthy participants received an acute oral dose of haloperidol, aripiprazole or placebo, and then performed an active aversive conditioning task with aversive and neutral events presented as sounds, while blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was carried out. The fMRI task, targeting the mesolimbic motivational system that is thought to be disturbed in psychosis, was based on the conditioned avoidance response (CAR) animal model - a widely used test of therapeutic potential of antipsychotic drugs. In line with the CAR animal model, the present results show that subjects given haloperidol were not able to avoid more aversive than neutral task trials, even though the response times were shorter during aversive events. In the aripiprazole and placebo groups more aversive than neutral events were avoided. Accordingly, the task-related BOLD-fMRI response in the mesolimbic motivational system was diminished in the haloperidol group compared to the placebo group, particularly in the ventral striatum, whereas the aripiprazole group showed task-related activations intermediate of the placebo and haloperidol groups. The current results show differential effects on brain function by aripiprazole and haloperidol, probably related to altered DA transmission. This supports the use of pharmacological fMRI to study antipsychotic properties in humans.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2252-2261
    Number of pages9
    JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Swedish Standard Keywords

    • Neurosciences (30105)


    • Aripiprazole
    • dopamine
    • fMRI
    • haloperidol
    • healthy volunteers
    • ventral striatum


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