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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 30;105(39):15106-11. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0802127105. Epub 2008 Sep 15.

Age-related changes in midbrain dopaminergic regulation of the human reward system.

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1
Section on Integrative Neuroimaging, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. dreher@isc.cnrs.fr

Abstract

The dopamine system, which plays a crucial role in reward processing, is particularly vulnerable to aging. Significant losses over a normal lifespan have been reported for dopamine receptors and transporters, but very little is known about the neurofunctional consequences of this age-related dopaminergic decline. In animals, a substantial body of data indicates that dopamine activity in the midbrain is tightly associated with reward processing. In humans, although indirect evidence from pharmacological and clinical studies also supports such an association, there has been no direct demonstration of a link between midbrain dopamine and reward-related neural response. Moreover, there are no in vivo data for alterations in this relationship in older humans. Here, by using 6-[(18)F]FluoroDOPA (FDOPA) positron emission tomography (PET) and event-related 3T functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in the same subjects, we directly demonstrate a link between midbrain dopamine synthesis and reward-related prefrontal activity in humans, show that healthy aging induces functional alterations in the reward system, and identify an age-related change in the direction of the relationship (from a positive to a negative correlation) between midbrain dopamine synthesis and prefrontal activity. These results indicate an age-dependent dopaminergic tuning mechanism for cortical reward processing and provide system-level information about alteration of a key neural circuit in healthy aging. Taken together, our findings provide an important characterization of the interactions between midbrain dopamine function and the reward system in healthy young humans and older subjects, and identify the changes in this regulatory circuit that accompany aging.

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PMID:
18794529
PMCID:
PMC2567500
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0802127105
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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