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J Neurosci. 2017 Feb 8;37(6):1493-1504. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2827-16.2016. Epub 2017 Jan 9.

Dopamine Modulates the Functional Organization of the Orbitofrontal Cortex.

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Department of Neurology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois 60611, and
Department of Economics, Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research, University of Zürich, 8006 Zürich, Switzerland.


Neuromodulators such as dopamine can alter the intrinsic firing properties of neurons and may thereby change the configuration of larger functional circuits. The primate orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) receives dopaminergic input from midbrain nuclei, but the role of dopamine in the OFC is still unclear. Here we tested the idea that dopaminergic activity changes the pattern of connectivity between the OFC and the rest of the brain and thereby reconfigures functional networks in the OFC. To this end, we combined double-blind, placebo-controlled pharmacology [D2 receptor (D2R) antagonist amisulpride] in humans with resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and clustering methods. In the placebo group, we replicated previously observed parcellations of the OFC into two and six subregions based on connectivity patterns with the rest of the brain. Most importantly, while the twofold clustering did not differ significantly between groups, blocking D2Rs significantly changed the composition of the sixfold parcellation, suggesting a dopamine-dependent reconfiguration of functional OFC subregions. Moreover, multivariate decoding analyses revealed that amisulpride changed the whole-brain connectivity patterns of individual OFC subregions. In particular, D2R blockade shifted the balance of OFC connectivity from associative areas in the temporal and parietal lobe toward functional connectivity with the frontal cortex. In summary, our results suggest that dopamine alters the composition of functional OFC circuits, possibly indicating a broader role for neuromodulators in the dynamic reconfiguration of functional brain networks.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT A key role of any neuromodulator may be the reconfiguration of functional brain circuits. Here we test this idea with regard to dopamine and the organization of functional networks in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). We show that blockade of dopamine D2 receptors has profound effects on the functional connectivity patterns of the OFC, yielding altered connectivity-based subdivisions of this region. Our results suggest that dopamine changes the connectional configuration of the OFC, possibly leading to transitions between different operating modes that favor either sensory input or recurrent processing in the prefrontal cortex. More generally, our findings support a broader role for neuromodulators in the dynamic reconfiguration of functional brain networks and may have clinical implications for understanding the actions of antipsychotic agents.


connectivity; dopamine; fMRI; orbitofrontal cortex; parcellation

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