Inducing a Functional-Pharmacological Coupling in the Human Brain to Achieve Improved Drug Effect

Roy Sar-El*, Haggai Sharon, Nitzan Lubianiker, Talma Hendler, Gal Raz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuropharmacotherapy is substantially hindered by poor drug targeting, resulting in low specificity and efficacy. It is known that different behavioral tasks increase functional activity and cerebral blood flow (CBF), two key parameters controlling drug delivery and efficacy. Here, we tested a novel, non-invasive drug targeting approach (termed functional-pharmacological coupling), which couples drug administration with a task that is known to specifically activate the drug’s sites-of-action in the brain. In two studies we administered Methylphenidate (MPH) to neurotypical adults and to subjects with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In study 1 we employed a within-subject factorial design and found that only following MPH administration, subjects that performed better in the cognitive induction task showed greater improvements in N-back performance. Moreover, only under MPH-Cognitive induction condition, this improvement correlated with concurrent N-Back rDLPFC activation. In Study 2, subjects with ADHD performed better on sustained attention when MPH administration was followed by a cognitive challenge rather than a control task. Again, those who were more attentive to the cognitive challenge scored higher. Our results provide preliminary support for the feasibility of functional-pharmacological coupling concept, hence opening a new horizon for patient-tailored, context-driven drug therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number557874
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - 9 Oct 2020


FundersFunder number
Minducate Research and Innovation Center for Science of Learning
Sagol family fund
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
Seventh Framework Programme602186
European Commission
Tel Aviv University
Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University


    • ADHD
    • brain
    • drug delivery
    • functional pharmacology
    • methylphenidate


    Dive into the research topics of 'Inducing a Functional-Pharmacological Coupling in the Human Brain to Achieve Improved Drug Effect'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this