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F1000Res. 2015 Jan 23;4:23. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.5672.1. eCollection 2015.

Levodopa effects on [ (11)C]raclopride binding in the resting human brain.

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Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology, Radiology, and Anatomy & Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, 63110, USA.
School of Arts and Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 63130, USA ; Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, 63110, USA.
School of Arts and Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 63130, USA ; Department of Ophthalmology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA.
Departments of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and Radiology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA.
Departments of Radiology, Psychiatry, Bioengineering, and Anatomy & Neurobiology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 63130, USA ; Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



Synaptic dopamine (DA) release induced by amphetamine or other experimental manipulations can displace [ (11)C]raclopride (RAC*) from dopamine D2-like receptors. We hypothesized that exogenous levodopa might increase dopamine release at striatal synapses under some conditions but not others, allowing a more naturalistic assessment of presynaptic dopaminergic function. Presynaptic dopaminergic abnormalities have been reported in Tourette syndrome (TS).


Test whether levodopa induces measurable synaptic DA release in healthy people at rest, and gather pilot data in TS.


This double-blind crossover study used RAC* and positron emission tomography (PET) to measure synaptic dopamine release 4 times in each of 10 carbidopa-pretreated, neuroleptic-naïve adults: before and during an infusion of levodopa on one day and placebo on another (in random order). Five subjects had TS and 5 were matched controls. RAC* binding potential (BP ND) was quantified in predefined anatomical volumes of interest (VOIs). A separate analysis compared BP ND voxel by voxel over the entire brain.


DA release declined between the first and second scan of each day (p=0.012), including on the placebo day. Levodopa did not significantly reduce striatal RAC* binding and striatal binding did not differ significantly between TS and control groups. However, levodopa's effect on DA release differed significantly in a right midbrain region (p=0.002, corrected), where levodopa displaced RAC* by 59% in control subjects but increased BP ND by 74% in TS subjects.


Decreased DA release on the second scan of the day is consistent with the few previous studies with a similar design, and may indicate habituation to study procedures. We hypothesize that mesostriatal DA neurons fire relatively little while subjects rest, possibly explaining the non-significant effect of levodopa on striatal RAC* binding. The modest sample size argues for caution in interpreting the group difference in midbrain DA release with levodopa.


D2; PET; Tourette; accumbens; dopamine; emission; levodopa; midbrain; nigra; nucleus; positron; raclopride; receptor; substantia; syndrome; tomography

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