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‘Prefrontal’ cognitive performance of healthy subjects positively correlates with cerebral FDOPA influx: An exploratory [18F]-fluoro-L-DOPA-PET investigation



Dopamine neurotransmission influences those cognitive processes, which are generally regarded as prefrontal cortical functions. In previous positron-emission-tomography (PET) studies, net blood-brain clearance of [18F]-fluoro-l-DOPA (FDOPA) correlated with impaired cognitive performance in patients with Parkinson's disease or schizophrenia. We hypothesized that FDOPA influx also correlates with performance of cognitive tasks associated with prefrontal functioning in healthy volunteers. The net blood-brain clearance of FDOPA (Kmath image) was mapped in a group of 11 healthy volunteers and calculated in striatal volumes-of-interest. The Wisconsin-Card-Sorting-Test (WCST), Stroop-Test, Trail-Making-Test (TMT-A/B), and Continuous-Performance-Test (CPT-M) had been administered previously to the same subjects. No correlation of Kmath image with perseverative errors in WCST or age could be found. However, there were significant positive correlations between the magnitude of Kmath image in caudate nucleus, putamen, and midbrain with performance of the TMT-B, CPT-M, and the Stroop test. Highest correlations were found between the time needed to perform the Stroop interference task and the Kmath image of striatal areas (Caudate nucleus: −0.780, P = 0.005; putamen: −0.870, P < 0. 001). Thus, the present findings reveal a strong correlation between dopamine synthesis capacity in striatum of healthy volunteers and performance of cognitive tasks linked to the prefrontal cortex. Hum Brain Mapp 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.