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Protocol Details

Cognitive Task Development and Implementation for Functional MRI Studies

This study is currently recruiting participants.

Summary | Eligibility | Citations | Contacts




Sponsoring Institute

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Recruitment Detail

Type: Participants currently recruited/enrolled
Gender: Male & Female
Min Age: 18 Years
Max Age: 65 Years

Referral Letter Required


Population Exclusion(s)

Pregnant Women;
Adults who are or may become unable to consent;
Non-English Speaking;


Task Development;
Natural History

Recruitment Keyword(s)



Drug Abuse;
Nicotine Dependence

Investigational Drug(s)


Investigational Device(s)




Supporting Site

National Institute on Drug Abuse


- Drugs of abuse have effects on mood, behavior, thinking, and decision making that may encourage people to continue using them and make it difficult for them to stop. Researchers who study these effects are interested in developing new tests to evaluate how drugs and drug use affect different areas of the brain.

- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans allow researchers to study brain activity and changes to brain function. When specific psychological tests are performed during functional MRI (fMRI) scans, researchers can examine the effects of drug use on the brain. By developing and testing new procedures for fMRI studies, more information can be obtained on brain function and activity in drug-using and non-drug-using individuals, and this information can help develop new treatments and therapies for substance abuse.


- To evaluate the effects of newly developed psychological procedures to be performed during fMRI scans.


- Healthy volunteers between 13 and 65 years of age who are willing to undergo MRI scanning.

- Both drug-using and non-drug-using individuals will be selected for this study.


- Before the start of the study, participants will complete questionnaires about medical and psychological history, and provide information about past or current drug use. Researchers will introduce the tasks to be performed during the scanning session(s), and will allow participants to practice the test either on a separate computer or on the computer used during the MRI scan.

- During the study, participants will be asked to do one or more tasks selected by the researchers. The tasks will be performed on a computer in an MRI machine, and may involve receiving rewards (such as money or sips of juice) for actions, memory and reaction-time tests, or other tests that involve responding to instructions on the screen.

- Participants will receive compensation for their participation in the study, including hourly compensation for individual visits and lump-sum compensation for each MRI scan.

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1. Male or female between the ages of 18-65.

2. All subjects must be able to provide informed consent/assent. Additional criteria for specific populations:

a. 379-smoker- daily smoker of tobacco cigarettes for at least one year (excluding quit attempts)

b. 379-user- DSM-V substance use disorder on a substance other than nicotine.

c. 379-other-psych-diagnosis- DSM-V disorder, stable and in treatment (i.e., no medication changes in the previous four weeks and a clearly identified treating psychiatrist).

3. Additional criteria for MRI phase participants:

Right-handed. Assessment tool: Edinburgh Handedness Inventory. Rationale: Left-handed individuals may have lateralization of many brain functions that differ from right-handed individuals who are the majority of the population. Therefore, inclusion of left-handed individuals may add unwanted noise to imaging data.

C) Exclusion Criteria

Bench Only Phase (Does not require MRI. Task requires gathering of accurate behavioral data).

1. History of neurological illnesses including but not limited to CVA, CNS tumor, head trauma, MS or other demyelinating diseases, epilepsy, movement disorders, or migraine in treatment. Assessment tool: phone screen and history and physical (H&P). Rationale: Neurological illnesses are likely to impair performance on the range of tasks to be piloted under this protocol and may impair ability to tolerate the procedures.

2. Current use of psychoactive medications unless required for the psychiatric disorder for which participants in the 379-user and 379-other-psych-diagnosis subcategories are being treated. Assessment tool: phone screen, H&P, Triage, comprehensive urine toxicology. Rationale: psychoactive medications are likely to alter performace on the range of tasks to be piloted under this protocol.

3. Cognitive impairment. Assessment tool: self report of extended placement in special education classes for learning problems, history of specific learning disability or mental retardation. Rationale: Cognitive impairment is likely to impair performance on the range of tasks to be piloted under this protocol and may impair ability to tolerate the procedures.

4. Current major mood, anxiety or psychotic disorder (unless task is being evaluated in a specific clinical population). Assessment tool: self report, H&P. Rationale: Current major mood or psychotic disorders are likely to impair performance on the range of tasks to be piloted under this protocol and may impair ability to tolerate the procedures.

5. Non-English speaking. Assessment tool(s): self-report. Rationale: To include non-English speakers, we would have to translate the consent and other study documents and hire and train bilingual staff, which would require resources that we do not have and could not

justify given the small sample size for each experiment. Additionally, the data integrity of some of the cognitive tasks and standardized questionnaires used in this study would be compromised as they have only been validated in English. Most importantly, ongoing

communication regarding safety procedures is necessary when participants are undergoing study procedures. The inability to effectively communicate safety procedures in a language other than English could compromise the safety of non-English speaking participants.

6. Suspected or confirmed acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. Assessment tool: 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) patient screening tool administered by phone prior to participant arrival. The current version of the screening tool to be used is available at Viral testing looking for SARS-CoV-2 in a specimen deemed appropriate by NIH such as nasopharyngeal or mid-turbinate swab. We reserve the right to change the specimen type as NIH approves new test procedures. This test may be carried out in-house at NIDA, NIH, at a community testing site or through a commercial vendor. Anyone with a positive symptom screen without a clear alternative explanation or a positive viral test will be excluded until they recover or (for asymptomatic cases) are no longer infectious. Additionally, participants will be asked about any lingering neurological and psychiatric symptoms such as difficulty with memory or concentration, changes in mood or new anxiety symptoms that may be a result of COVID-19 exposure. The MAI will evaluate any lingering symptoms to determine whether the potential impact on data is compatible with continuing in the study. The MAI will also retain the ability to exclude for a suspicious symptom screen without positive viral test. Rationale: Covid-19 is extremely infectious and can have serious consequences. Allowing participants with acute infection would alter the risk:benefit ratio for non-treatment studies without a primary focus on SARS-CoV-2 to an unacceptable level of risk. In addition, Covid-19 can have cognitive consequences which would add unnecessary noise to the study data. Screening and testing will continue as long as public health officials and/or NIDA medical personnel deem it appropriate.

Additional criteria for MRI Phase:

7. Pregnancy. Assessment tool: Urine pregnancy test. Rationale: Since the hormonal changes of pregnancy have been shown to have an impact on cognitive functioning and the tasks we are developing may yield only subtle differences between control and drug abusing subjects, we need to minimize any extraneous variation in the pilot data. Additionally, fMRI is not accepted as a safe procedure purely for research purposes during pregnancy.

8. Deep vein thrombosis: Assessment tool: self report during H&P of thrombosis, or a medical condition that may lead to a hypercoagulable state Rationale: Lying still for >2 hours may be a risk for the development of DVT in persons with certain medical conditions. As such, persons with will be excluded.

9. HIV positive individuals. Assessment tool: oral HIV test with serum confirmation of positive results. Rationale: potential for cognitive and/or other CNS disease that makes performing cognitive tasks non-reliable and /or non generalizeable to the general population. Also, potential liver/metabolic/vascular disease can interfere with the physiological transduction mechanisms for fMRI (i.e. making the measurement unreliable).

10. Unable to undergo MRI scanning due to possible pregnancy, metallic devices in the body, claustrophobia or body morphometry.

11. Currently using respiratory, cardiovascular or anticonvulsant medications that may interfere with the BOLD MRI signal.

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Not Provided

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Principal Investigator

Referral Contact

For more information:

Thomas Ross, Ph.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
NIDA IRP Office of Human Subjects Research
251 Bayview Blvd, Suite 200 (Room 07A714)
Baltimore, Maryland 21224
(443) 740-2645

Betty Jo Salmeron, M.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
(667) 312-5266

MMG Recruiting
MMG Recruiting (Mathew's Media Group)
251 Bayview Boulevard, Suite 200
Baltimore, MD 21224 United States

(800) 535-8254

Clinical Trials Number:


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