Cocaine decreases cortical cerebral blood flow but does not obscure regional activation in functional magnetic resonance imaging in human subjects

Gollub RL, Breiter HC, Kantor H, Kennedy D, Gastfriend D, Mathew RT, Makris N, Guimaraes A, Riorden J, Campbell T, Foley M, Hyman SE, Rosen B, Weisskoff R

J. Cereb. Blood Flow Metab. 1998 Jul;18(7):724-34

PMID: 9663502


The authors used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine whether acute intravenous (i.v.) cocaine use would change global cerebral blood flow (CBF) or visual stimulation-induced functional activation. They used flow-sensitive alternating inversion recovery (FAIR) scan sequences to measure CBF and blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) sensitive T2* scan sequences during visual stimulation to measure neuronal activation before and after cocaine and saline infusions. Cocaine (0.6 mg/kg i.v. over 30 seconds) increased heart rate and mean blood pressure and decreased end tidal carbon dioxide (CO2). All measures returned to baseline by 2 hours, the interinfusion interval, and were unchanged by saline. Flow-sensitive alternating inversion recovery imaging demonstrated that cortical gray matter CBF was unchanged after saline infusion (-2.4 +/- 6.5%) but decreased (-14.1 +/- 8.5%) after cocaine infusion (n = 8, P < 0.01). No decreases were detected in white matter, nor were changes found comparing BOLD signal intensity in cortical gray matter immediately before cocaine infusion with that measured 10 minutes after infusion. Visual stimulation resulted in comparable BOLD signal increases in visual cortex in all conditions (before and after cocaine and saline infusion). Despite a small (14%) but significant decrease in global cortical gray matter CBF after acute cocaine infusion, specific regional increases in BOLD imaging, mediated by neurons, can be measured reliably.