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1.  DRD2 Genotype-Based Variation of Default Mode Network Activity and of Its Relationship With Striatal DAT Binding 
Schizophrenia Bulletin  2011;39(1):206-216.
The default mode network (DMN) comprises a set of brain regions with “increased” activity during rest relative to cognitive processing. Activity in the DMN is associated with functional connections with the striatum and dopamine (DA) levels in this brain region. A functional single-nucleotide polymorphism within the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560 G > T) shifts splicing of the 2 D2 isoforms, D2 short and D2 long, and has been associated with striatal DA signaling as well as with cognitive processing. However, the effects of this polymorphism on DMN have not been explored. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of rs1076560 on DMN and striatal connectivity and on their relationship with striatal DA signaling. Twenty-eight subjects genotyped for rs1076560 underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during a working memory task and 123 55 I-Fluoropropyl-2-beta-carbomethoxy-3-beta(4-iodophenyl) nortropan Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography ([123I]-FP-CIT SPECT) imaging (a measure of dopamine transporter [DAT] binding). Spatial group-independent component (IC) analysis was used to identify DMN and striatal ICs. Within the anterior DMN IC, GG subjects had relatively greater connectivity in medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), which was directly correlated with striatal DAT binding. Within the posterior DMN IC, GG subjects had reduced connectivity in posterior cingulate relative to T carriers. Additionally, rs1076560 genotype predicted connectivity differences within a striatal network, and these changes were correlated with connectivity in MPFC and posterior cingulate within the DMN. These results suggest that genetically determined D2 receptor signaling is associated with DMN connectivity and that these changes are correlated with striatal function and presynaptic DA signaling.
PMCID: PMC3523900  PMID: 21976709
DRD2; dopamine; default mode network; functional magnetic resonance imaging; single-photon emission computerized tomography
2.  Functional variation of the dopamine D2 receptor gene is associated with emotional control as well as brain activity and connectivity during emotion processing in humans 
Personality traits related to emotion processing are, at least in part, heritable and genetically determined. Dopamine D2 receptor signaling is involved in modulation of emotional behavior and activity of associated brain regions such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. An intronic single nucleotide polymorphism within the D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560, guanine>thymine - G>T) shifts splicing of the two protein isoforms (D2 short, D2S, mainly presynaptic, and D2 long, D2L) and has been associated with modulation of memory performance and brain activity. Here, our aim was to investigate the association of DRD2 rs1076560 genotype with personality traits of emotional stability and with brain physiology during processing of emotionally relevant stimuli. DRD2 genotype and Big Five Questionnaire scores were evaluated in 134 healthy subjects demonstrating that GG subjects have reduced ‘emotion control’ compared with GT subjects. fMRI in a sample of 24 individuals indicated greater amygdala activity during implicit processing and greater dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) response during explicit processing of facial emotional stimuli in GG subjects compared with GT. Other results also demonstrate an interaction between DRD2 genotype and facial emotional expression on functional connectivity of both amygdala and dorsolateral prefrontal regions with overlapping medial prefrontal areas. Moreover, rs1076560 genotype is associated with differential relationships between amygdala/DLPFC functional connectivity and emotion control scores. These results suggest that genetically determined D2 signaling may explain part of personality traits related to emotion processing and individual variability in specific brain responses to emotionally relevant inputs.
PMCID: PMC2834475  PMID: 19940176
amygdala; DRD2; dopamine; emotion; fMRI; prefrontal cortex
3.  Genetically determined interaction between the dopamine transporter and the D2 receptor on prefronto-striatal activity and volume in humans 
Dopamine modulation of neuronal activity during memory tasks identifies a non-linear inverted-U shaped function. Both the dopamine transporter (DAT) and dopamine D2 receptors (encoded by DRD2) critically regulate dopamine signaling in the striatum and in prefrontal cortex during memory. Moreover, in vitro studies have demonstrated that DAT and D2 proteins reciprocally regulate each other presynaptically. Therefore, we have evaluated the genetic interaction between a DRD2 polymorphism (rs1076560) causing reduced presynaptic D2 receptor expression and the DAT 3’-VNTR variant (affecting DAT expression) in a large sample of healthy subjects undergoing BOLD - fMRI during memory tasks and structural MRI. Results indicated a significant DRD2/DAT interaction in prefrontal cortex and striatum BOLD activity during both working memory and encoding of recognition memory. The differential effect on BOLD activity of the DAT variant was mostly manifest in the context of the DRD2 allele associated with lower presynaptic expression. Similar results were also evident for gray matter volume in caudate. These interactions describe a non-linear relationship between compound genotypes and brain activity or gray matter volume. Complementary data from striatal protein extracts from wild-type and D2 knock-out animals (D2R−/−) indicate that DAT and D2 proteins interact in vivo. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the interaction between genetic variants in DRD2 and DAT critically modulates the non-linear relationship between dopamine and neuronal activity during memory processing.
PMCID: PMC2686116  PMID: 19176830
working memory; Recognition Memory; FMRI; Dopamine; Transport; D2; Receptor
4.  Intronic Polymorphisms Affecting Alternative Splicing of Human Dopamine D2 Receptor Are Associated with Cocaine Abuse 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;36(4):753-762.
The dopamine receptor D2 (encoded by DRD2) is implicated in susceptibility to mental disorders and cocaine abuse, but mechanisms responsible for this relationship remain uncertain. DRD2 mRNA exists in two main splice isoforms with distinct functions: D2 long (D2L) and D2 short (D2S, lacking exon 6), expressed mainly postsynaptically and presynaptically, respectively. Two intronic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs rs2283265 (intron 5) and rs1076560 (intron 6)) in high linkage disequilibrium (LD) with each other have been reported to alter D2S/D2L splicing and several behavioral traits in human subjects, such as memory processing. To assess the role of DRD2 variants in cocaine abuse, we measured levels of D2S and D2L mRNA in human brain autopsy tissues (prefrontal cortex and putamen) obtained from cocaine abusers and controls, and genotyped a panel of DRD2 SNPs (119 abusers and 95 controls). Robust effects of rs2283265 and rs1076560 on reducing formation of D2S relative to D2L were confirmed. The minor alleles of rs2283265/rs1076560 were considerably more frequent in Caucasians (18%) compared with African Americans (7%). Also, in Caucasians, rs2283265/rs1076560 minor alleles were significantly overrepresented in cocaine abusers compared with controls (rs2283265: 25 to 9%, respectively; p=0.001; OR=3.4 (1.7–7.1)). Several SNPs previously implicated in diverse clinical association studies are in high LD with rs2283265/rs1076560 and could have served as surrogate markers. Our results confirm the role of rs2283265/rs1076560 in D2 alternative splicing and support a strong role in susceptibility to cocaine abuse.
PMCID: PMC3055737  PMID: 21150907
alternative splicing; cocaine; dopamine; DRD2; D2S; human; addiction and substance abuse; dopamine; neurogenetics; psychostimulants; drd2; d2s; human; alternative splicing; cocaine
5.  Functional variants of the dopamine receptor D2 gene modulate prefronto-striatal phenotypes in schizophrenia 
Brain  2008;132(2):417-425.
Dopamine D2 receptor signalling is strongly implicated in the aetiology of schizophrenia. We have recently characterized the function of three DRD2 SNPs: rs12364283 in the promoter affecting total D2 mRNA expression; rs2283265 and rs1076560, respectively in introns 5 and 6, shifting mRNA splicing to two functionally distinct isoforms, the short form of D2 (D2S) and the long form (D2L). These two isoforms differentially contribute to dopamine signalling in prefrontal cortex and in striatum. We performed a case–control study to determine association of these variants and of their main haplotypes with several schizophrenia-related phenotypes. We demonstrate that the minor allele in the intronic variants is associated with reduced expression of %D2S of total mRNA in post-mortem prefrontal cortex, and with impaired working memory behavioural performance, both in patients and controls. However, the fMRI results show opposite effects in patients compared with controls: enhanced engagement of prefronto-striatal pathways in controls and reduced activity in patients. Moreover, the promoter variant is also associated with working memory activity in prefrontal cortex and striatum of patients, and less robustly with negative symptoms scores. Main haplotypes formed by the three DRD2 variants showed significant associations with these phenotypes consistent with those of the individual SNPs. Our results indicate that the three functional DRD2 variants modulate schizophrenia phenotypes possibly by modifying D2S/D2L ratios in the context of different total D2 density.
PMCID: PMC2640212  PMID: 18829695
dopamine; D2 receptor; working memory; prefrontal cortex; striatum
6.  Lower striatal dopamine D2/3 receptor availability in obese compared with non-obese subjects 
EJNMMI Research  2011;1:37.
Obesity is a result of a relative excess in energy intake over energy expenditure. These processes are controlled by genetic, environmental, psychological and biological factors. One of the factors involved in the regulation of food intake and satiety is dopaminergic signalling. A small number of studies have reported that striatal dopamine D2/D3 receptor [D2/3R] availability is lower in morbidly obese subjects.
To confirm the role of D2/3R in obesity, we measured striatal D2/3R availability, using [123I]IBZM SPECT, in 15 obese women and 15 non-obese controls.
Striatal D2/3R availability was 23% (p = 0.028) lower in obese compared with non-obese women.
This study is an independent replication of the finding that severely obese subjects have lower striatal D2/3R availability. Our findings invigorate the evidence for lower striatal D2/3R availability in obesity and confirm the role of the striatal dopaminergic reward system in obesity.
PMCID: PMC3265412  PMID: 22214469
obesity; dopamine receptor availability; [123I]IBZM SPECT
7.  Decoding the Dopamine Signal in Macaque Prefrontal Cortex: A Simulation Study Using the Cx3Dp Simulator 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71615.
Dopamine transmission in the prefrontal cortex plays an important role in reward based learning, working memory and attention. Dopamine is thought to be released non-synaptically into the extracellular space and to reach distant receptors through diffusion. This simulation study examines how the dopamine signal might be decoded by the recipient neuron. The simulation was based on parameters from the literature and on our own quantified, structural data from macaque prefrontal area 10. The change in extracellular dopamine concentration was estimated at different distances from release sites and related to the affinity of the dopamine receptors. Due to the sparse and random distribution of release sites, a transient heterogeneous pattern of dopamine concentration emerges. Our simulation predicts, however, that at any point in the simulation volume there is sufficient dopamine to bind and activate high-affinity dopamine receptors. We propose that dopamine is broadcast to its distant receptors and any change from the local baseline concentration might be decoded by a transient change in the binding probability of dopamine receptors. Dopamine could thus provide a graduated ‘teaching’ signal to reinforce concurrently active synapses and cell assemblies. In conditions of highly reduced or highly elevated dopamine levels the simulations predict that relative changes in the dopamine signal can no longer be decoded, which might explain why cognitive deficits are observed in patients with Parkinson’s disease, or induced through drugs blocking dopamine reuptake.
PMCID: PMC3741115  PMID: 23951205
8.  Common polymorphisms in dopamine-related genes combine to produce a ‘schizophrenia-like' prefrontal hypoactivity 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(2):e356-.
Individual changes in dopamine-related genes influence prefrontal activity during cognitive-affective processes; however, the extent to which common genetic variations combine to influence prefrontal activity is unknown. We assessed catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val108/158Met (rs4680) and dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) G-T (rs2283265) single nucleotide polymorphisms and functional magnetic resonance imaging during an emotional response inhibition test in 43 healthy adults and 27 people with schizophrenia to determine the extent to which COMT Val108/158Met and DRD2 G-T polymorphisms combine to influence prefrontal response to cognitive-affective challenges. We found an increased number of cognitive-deficit risk alleles in these two dopamine-regulating genes predict reduced prefrontal activation during response inhibition in healthy adults, mimicking schizophrenia-like prefrontal hypoactivity. Our study provides evidence that functionally related genes can combine to produce a disease-like endophenotype.
PMCID: PMC3944629  PMID: 24495967
catechol-O-methyl-transferase COMT genotype; dopamine D2 receptor gene; emotional inhibition; hypofrontality; prefrontal cortex; schizophrenia
9.  AMPT-induced monoamine depletion in humans: evaluation of two alternative [123I]IBZM SPECT procedures 
Acute monoamine depletion paradigms using alpha-methyl-para-tyrosine (AMPT) combined with single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) have been used successfully to evaluate disturbances in central dopaminergic neurotransmission. However, severe side effects due to relatively high doses (4,500 to 8,000 mg) of AMPT have been reasons for study withdrawal. Thus, we assessed the effectiveness and tolerability of two alternative procedures, using lower doses of AMPT.
Six healthy subjects underwent three measurements of striatal dopamine D2 receptor (D2R)-binding potential (BPND) with SPECT and the selective radiolabeled D2R antagonist [123I]IBZM. All subjects were scanned in the absence of pharmacological intervention (baseline) and after two different depletion procedures. In the first depletion session, over 6 h, subjects were administered 1,500 mg of AMPT before scanning. In the second depletion session, over 25 h, subjects were administered 40 mg AMPT/kg body weight. We also administered the Subjective Well-being Under Neuroleptic Treatment Scale, a self-report instrument designed to measure the subjective experience of patients on neuroleptic medication.
We found no change of mean D2R BPND after the first and short AMPT challenge compared to the baseline. However, we found a significant increase in striatal D2R BPND binding after the AMPT challenge adjusted for bodyweight compared to both other regimen. Although subjective well-being worsened after the prolonged AMPT challenge, no severe side effects were reported.
Our results imply a low-dosage, suitable alternative to the common AMPT procedure. The probability of side effects and study withdrawal can be reduced by this procedure.
PMCID: PMC2440966  PMID: 18283451
AMPT; Dopamine; [123I]IBZM; SPECT; SWN
10.  An In Vivo Assay of Synaptic Function Mediating Human Cognition 
Current Biology  2011;21(15):1320-1325.
The contribution of dopamine to working memory has been studied extensively [1–3]. Here, we exploited its well characterized effects [1–3] to validate a novel human in vivo assay of ongoing synaptic [4, 5] processing. We obtained magnetoencephalographic (MEG) measurements from subjects performing a working memory (WM) task during a within-subject, placebo-controlled, pharmacological (dopaminergic) challenge. By applying dynamic causal modeling (DCM), a Bayesian technique for neuronal system identification [6], to MEG signals from prefrontal cortex, we demonstrate that it is possible to infer synaptic signaling by specific ion channels in behaving humans. Dopamine-induced enhancement of WM performance was accompanied by significant changes in MEG signal power, and a DCM assay disclosed related changes in synaptic signaling. By estimating the contribution of ionotropic receptors (AMPA, NMDA, and GABAA) to the observed spectral response, we demonstrate changes in their function commensurate with the synaptic effects of dopamine. The validity of our model is reinforced by a striking quantitative effect on NMDA and AMPA receptor signaling that predicted behavioral improvement over subjects. Our results provide a proof-of-principle demonstration of a novel framework for inferring, noninvasively, neuromodulatory influences on ion channel signaling via specific ionotropic receptors, providing a window on the hidden synaptic events mediating discrete psychological processes in humans.
► We present a DCM capable of assaying neurotransmitter function during human cognition ► We demonstrate this using dopaminergic modulation of working memory and MEG ► We find changes in ionotropic receptors commensurate with dopaminergic enhancement ► We uncover quantitative effects that can predict individual behavioral improvements
PMCID: PMC3153654  PMID: 21802302
11.  Effective connectivity of AKT1-mediated dopaminergic working memory networks and pharmacogenetics of anti-dopaminergic treatment 
Brain  2012;135(5):1436-1445.
Working memory is a limited capacity system that integrates and manipulates information across brief periods of time, engaging a network of prefrontal, parietal and subcortical brain regions. Genetic control of these heritable brain processes have been suggested by functional genetic variations influencing dopamine signalling, which affect prefrontal activity during complex working memory tasks. However, less is known about genetic control over component working memory cortical–subcortical networks in humans, and the pharmacogenetic implications of dopamine-related genes on cognition in patients receiving anti-dopaminergic drugs. Here, we examined predictions from basic models of dopaminergic signalling in cortical and cortical–subcortical circuitries implicated in dissociable working memory maintenance and manipulation processes. We also examined pharmacogenetic effects on cognition in the context of anti-dopaminergic drug therapy. Using dynamic causal models of functional magnetic resonance imaging in normal subjects (n = 46), we identified differentiated effects of functional polymorphisms in COMT, DRD2 and AKT1 genes on prefrontal–parietal and prefrontal–striatal circuits engaged during maintenance and manipulation, respectively. Cortical synaptic dopamine monitored by the COMT Val158Met polymorphism influenced prefrontal control of both parietal processing in working memory maintenance and striatal processing in working memory manipulation. DRD2 and AKT1 polymorphisms implicated in DRD2 signalling influenced only the prefrontal–striatal network associated with manipulation. In the context of anti-psychotic drugs, the DRD2 and AKT1 polymorphisms altered dose-response effects of anti-psychotic drugs on cognition in schizophrenia (n = 111). Thus, we suggest that genetic modulation of DRD2–AKT1-related prefrontal–subcortical circuits could at least in part influence cognitive dysfunction in psychosis and its treatment.
PMCID: PMC3338927  PMID: 22525159
antipsychotics; functional MRI; prefrontal cortex; schizophrenia; striatum
12.  COMT and ANKK1-Taq-Ia Genetic Polymorphisms Influence Visual Working Memory 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e55862.
Complex cognitive tasks such as visual working memory (WM) involve networks of interacting brain regions. Several neurotransmitters, including an appropriate dopamine concentration, are important for WM performance. A number of gene polymorphisms are associated with individual differences in cognitive task performance. COMT, for example, encodes catechol-o-methyl transferase the enzyme primarily responsible for catabolizing dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. Striatal dopamine function, linked with cognitive tasks as well as habit learning, is influenced by the Taq-Ia polymorphism of the DRD2/ANKK1 gene complex; this gene influences the density of dopamine receptors in the striatum. Here, we investigated the effects of these polymorphisms on a WM task requiring the maintenance of 4 or 6 items over delay durations of 1 or 5 seconds. We explored main effects and interactions between the COMT and DRD2/ANKK1-Taq-Ia polymorphisms on WM performance. Participants were genotyped for COMT (Val158Met) and DRD2/ANKK1-Taq-Ia (A1+, A1−) polymorphisms. There was a significant main effect of both polymorphisms. Participants' WM reaction times slowed with increased Val loading such that the Val/Val homozygotes made the slowest responses and the Met/Met homozygotes were the fastest. Similarly, WM reaction times were slower and more variable for the DRD2/ANKK1-Taq-Ia A1+ group than the A1− group. The main effect of COMT was only apparent in the DRD2/ANKK1-Taq-Ia A1− group. These findings link WM performance with slower dopaminergic metabolism in the prefrontal cortex as well as a greater density of dopamine receptors in the striatum.
PMCID: PMC3561341  PMID: 23383291
13.  The dopamine D2 receptor antagonist sulpiride modulates striatal BOLD signal during the manipulation of information in working memory 
Psychopharmacology  2009;207(1):35-45.
Dopamine (DA) plays an important role in working memory. However, the precise functions supported by different DA receptor subtypes in different neural regions remain unclear.
The present study used pharmacological, event-related fMRI to test the hypothesis that striatal dopamine is important for the manipulation of information in working memory.
Twenty healthy human subjects were scanned twice, once after placebo and once after sulpiride 400 mg, a selective DA D2 receptor antagonist, while performing a verbal working memory task requiring different levels of manipulation.
Whilst there was no overall effect of sulpiride on task-dependent activation, individual variation in sulpiride plasma levels predicted the effect of working memory manipulation on activation in the putamen, suggesting a dose-dependent effect of DA antagonism on a striatally based manipulation process. These effects occurred in the context of a drug-induced improvement in performance on trials requiring the manipulation of information in working memory but not on simple retrieval trials. No significant drug effects were observed in the prefrontal cortex.
These results support models of dopamine function that posit a ‘gating’ function for dopamine D2 receptors in the striatum, which enables the flexible updating and manipulation of information in working memory.
PMCID: PMC2764850  PMID: 19672580
Dopamine; fMRI; Working memory; Executive function; Striatum
14.  Increased dopamine release in the right anterior cingulate cortex during the performance of a sorting task: A [11C]FLB 457 PET study 
NeuroImage  2009;46(2):516-521.
There is clear evidence that the prefrontal cortex is strongly involved in executive processes and that dopamine can influence performance on working memory tasks. Although, some studies have emphasized the role of striatal dopamine in executive functions, the role played by prefrontal dopamine during executive tasks is unknown. In order to investigate cortical dopamine transmission during executive function, we used D2-dopamine receptor ligand [11C]FLB 457 PET in healthy subjects while performing the Montreal Card Sorting Task (MCST). During the retrieval with shift task of the MCST, the subjects had to match each test card to one of the reference cards based on a classification rule (color, shape or number) determined by comparing the previously viewed cue card and the current test card. A reduction in [11C]FLB 457 binding potential in the right dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was observed when subjects performed the active task compared to the control task. These findings may suggest that right dorsal ACC dopamine neurotransmission increases significantly during the performance of certain executive processes, e.g., conflict monitoring, in keeping with previous evidence from fMRI studies showing ACC activation during similar tasks. These results may provide some insights on the origin of cognitive deficits underlying certain neurological disorders associated with dopamine dysfunction, such as Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC2972252  PMID: 19264140 CAMSID: cams1532
FLB 457; Positron emission tomography; Executive function; Anterior cingulate cortex; Dopamine; Conflict monitoring
15.  High correlation between in vivo [123I]β-CIT SPECT/CT imaging and post-mortem immunohistochemical findings in the evaluation of lesions induced by 6-OHDA in rats 
EJNMMI Research  2013;3:46.
6-Hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) is widely used in pre-clinical animal studies to induce degeneration of midbrain dopamine neurons to create animal models of Parkinson's disease. The aim of our study was to evaluate the potential of combined single-photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT) for the detection of differences in 6-OHDA-induced partial lesions in a dose- and time-dependent manner using the dopamine transporter (DAT) ligand 2β-carbomethoxy-3β-(4-[123I]iodophenyl)tropane ([123I]β-CIT).
Rats were unilaterally lesioned with intrastriatal injections of 8 or 2 × 10 μg 6-OHDA. At 2 or 4 weeks post-lesion, 40 to 50 MBq [123I]β-CIT was administered intravenously and rats were imaged with small-animal SPECT/CT under isoflurane anesthesia. The striatum was delineated and mean striatal activity in the lesioned side was compared to the intact side. After the [123I]β-CIT SPECT/CT scan, the rats were tested for amphetamine-induced rotation asymmetry, and their brains were immunohistochemically stained for DAT and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). The fiber density of DAT- and TH-stained striata was estimated, and TH-immunoreactive cells in the rat substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) were stereologically counted.
The striatal uptake of [123I]β-CIT differed significantly between the lesion groups and the results were highly correlated to both striatal DAT- and TH-immunoreactive fiber densities and to TH-immunoreactive cell numbers in the rat SNpc. No clear progression of the lesion could be seen.
[123I]β-CIT SPECT/CT is a valuable tool in predicting the condition of the rat midbrain dopaminergic pathway in the unilateral partial 6-OHDA lesion model of Parkinson's disease and it offers many advantages, allowing repeated non-invasive analysis of living animals.
PMCID: PMC3689076  PMID: 23758882
16.  Multivariate analyses suggest genetic impacts on neurocircuitry in schizophrenia 
Neuroreport  2008;19(6):603-607.
We investigated the relationship of functional neurocircuitries and dopamine receptor D1 (DRD1) polymorphisms in schizophrenics during a working memory task. Participants performed the Serial Item Recognition Paradigm memory task during functional magnetic resonance imaging acquisition. We performed a data-driven multivariate analysis (partial least squares) to characterize brain network (covariance) patterns. Genetic testing identified two main genotypes. Accuracy did not differ between the groups. Covariance patterns of different areas (including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the inferior parietal lobule) were inversely related between the two genotypes. Two groups of schizophrenic patients with similar symptomatology and performance on a working memory task, but with distinct dopamine receptor genotypes, may use distinct neural systems to retrieve information.
PMCID: PMC2967451  PMID: 18382271
functional MRI; genes; partial least squares; schizophrenia
17.  Computational Systems Analysis of Dopamine Metabolism 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(6):e2444.
A prominent feature of Parkinson's disease (PD) is the loss of dopamine in the striatum, and many therapeutic interventions for the disease are aimed at restoring dopamine signaling. Dopamine signaling includes the synthesis, storage, release, and recycling of dopamine in the presynaptic terminal and activation of pre- and post-synaptic receptors and various downstream signaling cascades. As an aid that might facilitate our understanding of dopamine dynamics in the pathogenesis and treatment in PD, we have begun to merge currently available information and expert knowledge regarding presynaptic dopamine homeostasis into a computational model, following the guidelines of biochemical systems theory. After subjecting our model to mathematical diagnosis and analysis, we made direct comparisons between model predictions and experimental observations and found that the model exhibited a high degree of predictive capacity with respect to genetic and pharmacological changes in gene expression or function. Our results suggest potential approaches to restoring the dopamine imbalance and the associated generation of oxidative stress. While the proposed model of dopamine metabolism is preliminary, future extensions and refinements may eventually serve as an in silico platform for prescreening potential therapeutics, identifying immediate side effects, screening for biomarkers, and assessing the impact of risk factors of the disease.
PMCID: PMC2435046  PMID: 18568086
18.  The COMT Val158 allele is associated with impaired delayed-match-to-sample performance in ADHD 
This study explored the association between three measures of working memory ability and genetic variation in a range of catecholamine genes in a sample of children with ADHD.
One hundred and eighteen children with ADHD performed three working memory measures taken from the CANTAB battery (Spatial Span, Delayed-match-to-sample, and Spatial Working Memory). Associations between performance on working memory measures and allelic variation in catecholamine genes (including those for the noradrenaline transporter [NET1], the dopamine D4 and D2 receptor genes [DRD4; DRD2], the gene encoding dopamine beta hydroxylase [DBH] and catechol-O-methyl transferase [COMT]) were investigated using regression models that controlled for age, IQ, gender and medication status on the day of test.
Significant associations were found between performance on the delayed-match-to-sample task and COMT genotype. More specifically, val/val homozygotes produced significantly more errors than did children who carried a least one met allele. There were no further associations between allelic variants and performance across the other working memory tasks.
The working memory measures employed in the present study differed in the degree to which accurate task performance depended upon either the dynamic updating and/or manipulation of items in working memory, as in the spatial span and spatial working memory tasks, or upon the stable maintenance of representations, as in the delay-match–to-sample task. The results are interpreted as evidence of a relationship between tonic dopamine levels associated with the met COMT allele and the maintenance of stable working memory representations required to perform the delayed-match-to-sample-task.
PMCID: PMC3413539  PMID: 22640745
Attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder; Working memory; COMT
19.  Imaging dopamine transmission in cocaine dependence: response to treatment linked to neurochemistry 
The American journal of psychiatry  2011;168(6):634-641.
Previous research has shown that dopamine signaling in the limbic striatum is crucial for selecting adaptive, motivated behavior, and that disrupted dopamine transmission is associated with impulsive and maladaptive behavior. In humans, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging studies have shown that cocaine dependence is associated with the dysregulation of striatal dopamine signaling, which is associated with cocaine seeking behavior. The goal of the present study was to investigate whether this association applies to the treatment setting. Our hypothesis was that dopamine signaling in the limbic striatum would be associated with response to a behavioral treatment that uses positive reinforcement to replace impulsive cocaine use with constructive personal goals. Prior to treatment, cocaine dependent subjects underwent two PET scans using [11C]raclopride, before and after the administration of a stimulant (methylphenidate), to measure striatal D2/3 receptor binding and pre-synaptic dopamine release. The results showed that both of these outcome measures were reduced in the volunteers who failed to respond to treatment compared to those who experienced a positive treatment response. These findings provide insight into the neurochemistry of treatment response and show that low dopamine transmission is associated with treatment failure. In addition, these data suggest that the combination of behavioral treatment with methods that increase striatal dopamine signaling might serve as a therapeutic strategy for cocaine dependence.
PMCID: PMC3235735  PMID: 21406463
20.  Hyperactivity of the Dopaminergic System in NTS1 and NTS2 Null Mice 
Neuropharmacology  2010;58(8):1199-1205.
Neurotensin (NT) is a tridecapeptide that acts as a neuromodulator in the central nervous system mainly through two NT receptors, NTS1 and NTS2. The functional-anatomical interactions between NT, the mesotelencephalic dopamine system, and structures targeted by dopaminergic projections have been studied. The present study was conducted to determine the effects of NT receptor subtypes on dopaminergic function with the use of mice lacking either NTS1 (NTS1−/−) or NTS2 (NTS2−/−). Basal and amphetamine-stimulated locomotor activity was determined. In vivo microdialysis in freely moving mice, coupled with HPLC-ECD, was used to detect basal and d-amphetamine-stimulated striatal extracellular dopamine levels. In vitro radioligand binding and synaptosomal uptake assays for the dopamine transporters were conducted to test for the expression and function of the striatal pre-synaptic dopamine transporter. NTS1−/− and NTS2−/− mice had higher baseline locomotor activity and higher basal extracellular dopamine levels in striatum. NTS1−/− mice showed higher locomotor activity and exaggerated dopamine release in response to d-amphetamine. Both NTS1−/− and NTS2−/− mice exhibited lower dopamine D1 receptor mRNA expression in the striatum relative to wild type mice. Dopamine transporter binding and dopamine reuptake in striatum were not altered. Therefore, lack of either NTS1 or NTS2 alters the dopaminergic system. The possibility that the dysregulation of dopamine transmission might stem from a deficiency in glutamate neurotransmission is discussed. The data strengthen the hypothesis that NT receptors are involved in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia and provide a potential model for the biochemical changes of the disease.
PMCID: PMC2867664  PMID: 20211191
neurotensin receptors; knockout mice; dopamine receptors; dopamine transporters; amphetamine; schizophrenia
21.  Linguistic Grammar Learning and DRD2-TAQ-IA Polymorphism 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64983.
As research into the neurobiology of language has focused primarily on the systems level, fewer studies have examined the link between molecular genetics and normal variations in language functions. Because the ability to learn a language varies in adults and our genetic codes also vary, research linking the two provides a unique window into the molecular neurobiology of language. We consider a candidate association between the dopamine receptor D2 gene (DRD2) and linguistic grammar learning. DRD2-TAQ-IA polymorphism (rs1800497) is associated with dopamine receptor D2 distribution and dopamine impact in the human striatum, such that A1 allele carriers show reduction in D2 receptor binding relative to carriers who are homozygous for the A2 allele. The individual differences in grammatical rule learning that are particularly prevalent in adulthood are also associated with striatal function and its role in domain-general procedural memory. Therefore, we reasoned that procedurally-based grammar learning could be associated with DRD2-TAQ-IA polymorphism. Here, English-speaking adults learned artificial concatenative and analogical grammars, which have been respectively associated with procedural and declarative memory. Language learning capabilities were tested while learners’ neural hemodynamic responses were simultaneously measured by fMRI. Behavioral learning and brain activation data were subsequently compared with the learners’ DRD2 (rs1800497) genotype. Learners who were homozygous for the A2 allele were better at concatenative (but not analogical) grammar learning and had higher striatal responses relative to those who have at least one A1 allele. These results provide preliminary evidence for the neurogenetic basis of normal variations in linguistic grammar learning and its link to domain-general functions.
PMCID: PMC3669058  PMID: 23741438
22.  A role for locus coeruleus in Parkinson tremor 
We analyzed rest tremor, one of the etiologically most elusive hallmarks of Parkinson disease (PD), in 12 consecutive PD patients during a specific task activating the locus coeruleus (LC) to investigate a putative role of noradrenaline (NA) in tremor generation and suppression. Clinical diagnosis was confirmed in all subjects by reduced dopamine reuptake transporter (DAT) binding values investigated by single photon computed tomography imaging (SPECT) with [123I] N-ω-fluoropropyl-2β-carbomethoxy-3β-(4-iodophenyl) tropane (FP-CIT). The intensity of tremor (i.e., the power of Electromyography [EMG] signals), but not its frequency, significantly increased during the task. In six subjects, tremor appeared selectively during the task. In a second part of the study, we retrospectively reviewed SPECT with FP-CIT data and confirmed the lack of correlation between dopaminergic loss and tremor by comparing DAT binding values of 82 PD subjects with bilateral tremor (n = 27), unilateral tremor (n = 22), and no tremor (n = 33). This study suggests a role of the LC in Parkinson tremor.
PMCID: PMC3250076  PMID: 22287946
Parkinson disease; tremor; locus coeruleus; noradrenaline
23.  Deficits in dopamine D2 receptors and pre-synaptic dopamine in heroin dependence: commonalities and differences with other types of addiction 
Biological Psychiatry  2011;71(3):192-198.
Positron Emission tomography (PET) imaging studies have shown that addiction to a number of substances of abuse is associated with a decrease in dopamine D2/3 receptor binding and decreased pre-synaptic dopamine release in the striatum. Some studies have also shown that these reductions are associated with the severity of addiction. For example, in cocaine dependence, low dopamine release is associated with the choice to self-administer cocaine. The goal of the present study was to investigate these parameters of striatal dopamine transmission in heroin dependence and their association with drug seeking behavior.
Heroin dependent and healthy control subjects were scanned with [11C]raclopride before and after stimulant administration (methylphenidate) to measure striatal D2/3 receptor binding and pre-synaptic dopamine release. Following the PET scans, the heroin dependent subjects performed heroin self-administration sessions.
Both striatal D2/3 receptor binding and dopamine release were reduced in the heroin dependent subjects compared to healthy controls. However, neither PET measure of dopamine transmission predicted the choice to self-administer heroin.
These findings show that heroin addiction, like addiction to other drugs of abuse, is associated with low D2/3 receptor binding and low pre-synaptic dopamine. However, neither of these outcome measures were associated with the choice to self-administer heroin.
PMCID: PMC3253988  PMID: 22015315
PET imaging; dopamine; dopamine receptors; addiction; heroin dependence; drug self-administration
24.  A Role for Adenosine A1 Receptors in GABA and NMDA-Receptor Mediated Modulation of Dopamine Release: Studies Using Fast Cyclic Voltammetry 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2008;8(9):5516-5534.
In the striatum many neurotransmitters including GABA, glutamate, acetylcholine, dopamine, nitric oxide and adenosine interact to regulate synaptic transmission. Dopamine release in the striatum is regulated by a number of pre- and post-synaptic receptors including adenosine. We have recently shown using isolated rat striatal slices, and the technique of fast cyclic voltammetry, that adenosine A1 receptor-mediated inhibition of dopamine release is modulated by dopamine D1 receptors. In the present study we have investigated the influence of NMDA and GABA receptor activation on the modulation of electrically stimulated dopamine release by adenosine. Application of the adenosine A1 receptor agonist, N6-cyclopentyladenosine (CPA), concentration-dependently inhibited dopamine release to a maxiumum of 50%. Perfusion of the glutamate receptor agonist, NMDA, in low magnesium, caused a rapid and concentration-dependent inhibition of dopamine release. Prior perfusion with the adenosine A1 receptor antagonist, DPCPX, significantly reduced the effect of 5 μM and 10 μM NMDA on dopamine release. The GABAA receptor agonist, isoguvacine, had a significant concentration-dependent inhibitory effect on dopamine release which was reversed by prior application of the GABAA receptor antagonist, picrotoxin, but not DPCPX. Finally inhibition of dopamine release by CPA (1μM) was significantly enhanced by prior perfusion with picrotoxin. These data demonstrate an important role for GABA, NMDA and adenosine in the modulation of dopamine release.
PMCID: PMC3705518
Fast cyclic voltammetry; Adenosine; GABA; NMDA; dorsolateral striatum
25.  Pre-synaptic striatal dopaminergic function in people at high risk of psychosis 
The dopamine hypothesis has been the major pathophysiological theory of psychosis in recent decades. Molecular imaging studies have provided in vivo evidence of increased dopamine synaptic availability and increased pre-synaptic dopamine synthesis in the striata of people with psychotic illnesses. These studies support the predictions of the dopamine hypothesis, but it remains to be determined whether dopaminergic abnormalities pre-date or are secondary to the development of psychosis.
We selectively review the molecular imaging studies of the striatal dopaminergic system in psychosis and link this to models of psychosis and the functional sub-divisions of the striatum to make predictions for dopaminergic system in the prodromal phase of psychosis.
A fairly consistent body of evidence indicates that pre-synaptic dopamine synthesis and synaptic dopamine availability is increased in the striata of people with psychotic illnesses. There may also be a small increase in striatal D2 dopamine receptor levels, although the evidence is less consistent. No studies to date have investigated striatal dopaminergic function longitudinally in people with psychosis or who are in the prodromal phase of psychosis. Evidence indicates that people with psychosis and at risk of psychosis show characteristic cognitive biases which support models of psychosis that link cognitive processes underlying appraisal to the development of delusions.
Current findings indicate an association between dopaminergic abnormalities and psychosis, which supports the dopamine hypothesis. However it is not possible to infer a causal relationship from these data. Studies of the dopaminergic system in the prodromal phase of psychosis and over the course of the developing psychotic illness are needed to determine whether dopaminergic abnormalities are secondary or primary, and whether dopaminergic abnormalities underlie the cognitive biases and impairments associated with psychosis.
PMCID: PMC3796874  PMID: 18055930

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