Acute effects of mifepristone on emotional processing related brain activity: a functional MRI study

Nefize Yalin*, Matthew Kempton, Ndaba Mazibuko, Mitul Mehta, Allan Young, Paul Stokes

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis plays an important role in the pathophysiology of mood disorders, and preliminary data suggests that glucocorticoid receptor (GR) antagonism may be an important therapeutic mechanism. The effects of modulating HPA axis function on emotional processing related brain activity, which may be abnormal in depressed mood, is poorly understood. This study used a pharmacological functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) design to determine the effects of the GR and progesterone receptor antagonist mifepristone on emotional faces processing task related brain activations in 19 right-handed healthy male participants. Each participant received 600 mg mifepristone or placebo on two separate imaging days and then performed an emotional processing fMRI task four hours later. The effect of mifepristone on task related brain activations was determined using Region-of-Interest (ROI) analyses and an exploratory whole brain voxel-wise analyses. No significant changes were observed in the defined ROIs (amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, insula) or in the exploratory whole brain analyses that was associated with mifepristone administration in either the angry vs happy faces or angry and happy faces vs implicit baseline contrasts. Task reaction times and accuracy were similar in both mifepristone and placebo conditions (all p > 0.05). Our study failed to show significant evidence of modulation of emotional processing related brain activity associated with acute mifepristone administration. Future research should use fMRI to investigate the longer-term administration effects of mifepristone on mood in healthy participants and people with mood disorders to provide a deeper understanding of the potential effects on depressive symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Early online date23 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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