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Keywords:

  • dopamine;
  • emotions;
  • regional cerebral blood flow;
  • methylphenidate;
  • humans

Abstract

The dopaminergic system has been implicated in the pathogenesis and treatment of a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, and addiction. (Dys)function of the dopaminergic system may be studied by combining [15O]H2O PET with a dopaminergic drug challenge. In this pilot study we investigated the suitability of the dopamine reuptake blocker methylphenidate (MP) as a dopaminergic probe. Measurements of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) were made at 10 and 30 min after placebo and MP (0.25 mg/kg) injection to seven healthy volunteers. During scanning the behavioral condition of the subjects was standardized using a continuous performance task. Growth hormone levels were assessed and subjective ratings were obtained. MP significantly elevated growth hormone levels. After receiving MP, the subjective experience varied from neutral to highly pleasurable. Ten minutes after MP administration, significant relative increases in rCBF were found in the rostral anterior cingulate (AC), temporal poles, and the supplementary motor area. Significant reductions were seen in the superior temporal gyri, right medial frontal gyrus, and right inferior parietal cortex. At 30 min after MP administration, increases were seen in the AC, temporal pole, and right cerebellum. No changes were observed in the striatum. The activation in the right rostral AC was significantly higher in the subjects with the highest euphoria scores compared to the subjects with minimal MP-induced changes in euphoria. We suggest that the combined MP challenge with functional imaging, as described in our study, may be a useful tool to study the functional integrity of the dopaminergic system in psychiatric disorders. Hum Brain Mapp, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.