μ Opioid Antagonist Naltrexone Partially Abolishes the Antidepressant Placebo Effect and Reduces Orbitofrontal Cortex Encoding of Reinforcement

Marta Peciña, Jiazhou Chen, Thandi Lyew, Jordan F. Karp, Alexandre Y. Dombrovski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Like placebo analgesia, the antidepressant placebo effect appears to involve cortical and subcortical endogenous opioid signaling, yet the mechanism through which opioid release affects mood remains unclear. The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)—which integrates various attributes of a stimulus to predict associated outcomes—has been implicated in placebo effects and is rich in μ opioid receptors. We hypothesized that naltrexone blockade of μ opioid receptors would blunt OFC-dependent antidepressant placebo effects. Methods: Twenty psychotropic-free patients with major depressive disorder completed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of 1 oral dose of 50 mg of naltrexone or matching placebo immediately before completing 2 sessions of the antidepressant placebo functional magnetic resonance imaging task. This task manipulates placebo-associated expectancies and their reinforcement while assessing expected and actual mood improvement. Results: Behaviorally, manipulations of antidepressant placebo expectancies and their reinforcement had positive, interactive effects on participants’ expectancy and mood ratings. The high-expectancy condition recruited the dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, as well as dorsal attention stream regions. Interestingly, increased dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex brain responses appeared to attenuate the antidepressant placebo effect. The administration of 1 oral dose of naltrexone, compared with placebo, partially abolished the interaction of the expectancy and reinforcement manipulation on mood and blocked reinforcement-induced responses in the right central OFC. Conclusions: Our results show preliminary evidence for the role of μ opioid central OFC modulation in antidepressant placebo effects by positively biasing the value of placebo based on reinforcement and enhancing subsequent hedonic experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1002-1012
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Volume6
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Antidepressant
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Naltrexone
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Placebo
  • μ opioid antagonist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'μ Opioid Antagonist Naltrexone Partially Abolishes the Antidepressant Placebo Effect and Reduces Orbitofrontal Cortex Encoding of Reinforcement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this