Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 25141922.
Neuropsychopharmacology 2015 Feb;40(3):622-31
The psychotomimetic effect of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist ketamine is thought to arise from a functional modulation of the brain’s fronto-striato-thalamic (FST) circuits. Animal models suggest a pronounced effect on ventral ‘limbic’ FST systems, although recent work in patients with psychosis and high-risk individuals suggests specific alterations of dorsal ‘associative’ FST circuits. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the effects of a subanesthetic dose of ketamine on measures of functional connectivity as indexed by the temporal coherence of spontaneous neural activity in both dorsal and ventral FST circuits, as well as their symptom correlates. We adopted a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized, repeated-measures design in which 19 healthy participants received either an intravenous saline infusion or a racemic mixture of ketamine (100 ng/ml) separated by at least 1 week. Compared with placebo, ketamine increased functional connectivity between the dorsal caudate and both the thalamus and midbrain bilaterally. Ketamine additionally increased functional connectivity of the ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Both connectivity increases significantly correlated with the psychosis-like and dissociative symptoms under ketamine. Importantly, dorsal caudate connectivity with the ventrolateral thalamus and subthalamic nucleus showed inverse correlation with ketamine-induced symptomatology, pointing to a possible resilience role to disturbances in FST circuits. Although consistent with the role of FST in mediating psychosis, these findings contrast with previous research in clinical samples by suggesting that acute NMDAR antagonism may lead to psychosis-like experiences via a mechanism that is distinct from that implicated in frank psychotic illness.