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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 May;37(6):1422-32. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.328. Epub 2012 Jan 18.

Postpartum and depression status are associated with lower [[¹¹C]raclopride BP(ND) in reproductive-age women.

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Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


The early postpartum period is associated with increased risk for affective and psychotic disorders. Because maternal dopaminergic reward system function is altered with perinatal status, dopaminergic system dysregulation may be an important mechanism of postpartum psychiatric disorders. Subjects included were non-postpartum healthy (n=13), postpartum healthy (n=13), non-postpartum unipolar depressed (n=10), non-postpartum bipolar depressed (n=7), postpartum unipolar (n=13), and postpartum bipolar depressed (n=7) women. Subjects underwent 60 min of [¹¹C]raclopride-positron emission tomography imaging to determine the nondisplaceable striatal D₂/₃ receptor binding potential (BP(ND)). Postpartum status and unipolar depression were associated with lower striatal D₂/₃ receptor BP(ND) in the whole striatum (p=0.05 and p=0.02, respectively) that reached a maximum of 7-8% in anteroventral striatum for postpartum status (p=0.02). Unipolar depression showed a nonsignificant trend toward being associated with 5% lower BP(ND) in dorsal striatum (p=0.06). D₂/₃ receptor BP(ND) did not differ significantly between unipolar depressed and healthy postpartum women or between bipolar and healthy subjects; however, D₂/₃ receptor BP(ND) was higher in dorsal striatal regions in bipolar relative to unipolar depressives (p=0.02). In conclusion, lower striatal D₂/₃ receptor BP(ND) in postpartum and unipolar depressed women, primarily in ventral striatum, and higher dorsal striatal D₂/₃ receptor BP(ND) in bipolar relative to unipolar depressives reveal a potential role for the dopamine (DA) system in the physiology of these states. Further studies delineating the mechanisms underlying these differences in D₂/₃ receptor BP(ND), including study of DA system responsivity to rewarding stimuli, and increasing power to assess unipolar vs bipolar-related differences, are needed to better understand the affective role of the DA system in postpartum and depressed women.

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