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Biol Psychiatry. 2006 May 15;59(10):898-907.

Molecular imaging of the dopaminergic system and its association with human cognitive function.

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Department of Physiology, Behavioural Neuroscience Laboratory, Monash Centre for Brain and Behaviour, Monash University, Victoria, Australia.


Molecular imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) has recently been used to examine dopamine (DA) function and its relationship with cognition in human subjects. This article will review PET and SPECT studies that have explored the relationship between cognitive processes and components of the DA system (pre-, intra-, and postsynaptic) in healthy and patient populations such as Parkinson's disease (PD), schizophrenia, Huntington's disease, and aging. It is demonstrated that DA activity modulates a range of frontal executive-type cognitive processes such as working memory, attentional functioning, and sequential organization, and alterations of DA within the fronto-striato-thalamic circuits might contribute to the cognitive impairments observed in PD, schizophrenia, and normal aging. Although associations between DA and cognitive measures need to be considered within the context of fronto-striato-thalamic circuitry, it is suggested that striatal (especially caudate) DA activity, particularly via D2 receptors, might be important for response inhibition, temporal organization of material, and motor performance, whereas cortical DA transmission via D1 receptors might be important for maintaining and representing on-going behavior.

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