Journal Article

Relationship of Alexithymia Ratings to Dopamine D2-type Receptors in Anterior Cingulate and Insula of Healthy Control Subjects but Not Methamphetamine-Dependent Individuals

Kyoji Okita, Dara G. Ghahremani, Doris E. Payer, Chelsea L. Robertson, Mark A. Mandelkern and Edythe D. London

in International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Published on behalf of Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum

Volume 19, issue 5 ISSN: 1461-1457
Published online December 2015 | e-ISSN: 1469-5111 | DOI:

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  • Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry
  • Neuroscience


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Individuals with substance-use disorders exhibit emotional problems, including deficits in emotion recognition and processing, and this class of disorders also has been linked to deficits in dopaminergic markers in the brain. Because associations between these phenomena have not been explored, we compared a group of recently abstinent methamphetamine-dependent individuals (n=23) with a healthy-control group (n=17) on dopamine D2-type receptor availability, measured using positron emission tomography with [18F]fallypride.


The anterior cingulate and anterior insular cortices were selected as the brain regions of interest, because they receive dopaminergic innervation and are thought to be involved in emotion awareness and processing. The Toronto Alexithymia Scale, which includes items that assess difficulty in identifying and describing feelings as well as externally oriented thinking, was administered, and the scores were tested for association with D2-type receptor availability.


Relative to controls, methamphetamine-dependent individuals showed higher alexithymia scores, reporting difficulty in identifying feelings. The groups did not differ in D2-type receptor availability in the anterior cingulate or anterior insular cortices, but a significant interaction between group and D2-type receptor availability in both regions, on self-report score, reflected significant positive correlations in the control group (higher receptor availability linked to higher alexithymia) but nonsignificant, negative correlations (lower receptor availability linked to higher alexithymia) in methamphetamine-dependent subjects.


The results suggest that neurotransmission through D2-type receptors in the anterior cingulate and anterior insular cortices influences capacity of emotion processing in healthy people but that this association is absent in individuals with methamphetamine dependence.

Keywords: Methamphetamine dependence; emotion processing; alexithymia; dopamine; PET

Journal Article.  6677 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics ; Neurology ; Psychiatry ; Neuroscience

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