NCORE: Neural Correlates of Reward and Emotion in opioid dependence

We are investigating the effects of opioid dependence on brain function, with the aim of improving treatment for detoxification and relapse prevention.

Our research uses brain-imaging techniques to detect subtle changes in brain function while performing psychological tasks. These tasks measure brain processes that are important in opioid dependence.

We are currently recruiting participants for the NCORE study . In this study we will investigate the effects of aprepitant on brain function in opioid dependent individuals during methadone treatment, and again, after achieving abstinence from methadone. We will compare the results with those from a healthy control group of individuals who do not have opiate dependence.

Aprepitant is a safe, well tolerated drug that is licenced for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Evidence from previous studies using aprepitant in opiate abuse were supportive of a role for aprepitant to reduce opiate craving and withdrawal.

What’s involved?

Volunteers taking part will be asked to attend 3 or 5 visits in total at the Imperial Clinical Research Facility (ICRF) in the Hammersmith Hospital. Brain scanning (visits 2 to 5) will take place in the Imperial College Clinical Imaging Facility (CIF), which is at the same location. We will arrange taxi transport for all visits.

Opioid dependent individuals (5 visit days)

  • Phone screening
  • Visit 1: Consent and screening visit (4-5 hours).
  • Visits 2 and 3: Study days (~7 hours each, 1 week apart) when you are still taking your usual methadone dose.
  • Interim session: To be completed at your usual drug & alcohol service (~2.5 hours).
  • Visits 4 and 5: Study days are identical to visits 2 & 3 (~7 hours each, 1 week apart) but will only be completed once you have stopped taking your methadone.

Healthy Controls (3 visit days)

  • Phone screening
  • Visit 1: Consent and screening visit (4-5 hours).
  • Visits 2 and 3: Study days (~7 hours each, 1 week apart)

Participants will receive £50 for the screening visit and £70 for each subsequent study visit plus travel expenses. Please note that while we will be recruiting health controls, the screening schedule is not certain yet. If you are interested, please contact and we can add your details to our register of controls.

Am I Eligible?

We are looking for male and female volunteers over the age of 21 who:

  • Are available 1 day per week for 3 weeks in the first instance
  • Are not claustrophobic

Specific for opioid-dependent individuals:

  • Are currently dependent on opioids
  • Are currently taking methadone but reducing the dose with a view to become abstinent
  • Are not currently dependent on any other drugs*

Specific for healthy controls:

  • Have no history of dependence on drugs or alcohol*
  • Are not taking medicines for a psychiatric condition

*Smokers and non-smokers welcome

To check whether you are eligible please contact the team via the contact details below.

 Find out more

Visit the NCORE Study webpage.

Learn more about the background and planned impact of the study here.

Contact Us

Contact the research team via cfn.recruitment@imperial.ac.uk or 0207 5947028. Alternatively, contact the study doctor, Dr Katherine Herlinger, on 07745 300 960 during working hours (09:00-17:00) or via katherine.herlinger@nhs.net.

Ethical Approval

This study has been approved by the West London & GTAC Research Ethics Committee (19/LO/0971). It has been reviewed and funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

NCORE: Neural Correlates of Reward and Emotion in opioid dependence