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eNeuro. 2018 Apr 30;5(2). pii: ENEURO.0035-17.2018. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0035-17.2018. eCollection 2018 Mar-Apr.

Neuro-Cognitive Effects of Acute Tyrosine Administration on Reactive and Proactive Response Inhibition in Healthy Older Adults.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University, Nijmegen 6525EN, The Netherlands.
Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, Wageningen 6700AA, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychiatry, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen 6500HB, The Netherlands.


The aging brain is characterized by altered dopamine signaling. The amino acid tyrosine, a catecholamine precursor, is known to improve cognitive performance in young adults, especially during high environmental demands. Tyrosine administration might also affect catecholamine transmission in the aging brain, thereby improving cognitive functioning. In healthy older adults, impairments have been demonstrated in two forms of response inhibition: reactive inhibition (outright stopping) and proactive inhibition (anticipatory response slowing) under high information load. However, no study has directly compared the effects of a catecholamine precursor on reactive and load-dependent proactive inhibition. In this study we explored the effects of tyrosine on reactive and proactive response inhibition and signal in dopaminergically innervated fronto-striatal regions. Depending on age, tyrosine might lead to beneficial or detrimental neurocognitive effects. We aimed to address these hypotheses in 24 healthy older human adults (aged 61-72 years) using fMRI in a double blind, counterbalanced, placebo-controlled, within-subject design. Across the group, tyrosine did not alter reactive or proactive inhibition behaviorally but did increase fronto-parietal proactive inhibition-related activation. When taking age into account, tyrosine affected proactive inhibition both behaviorally and neurally. Specifically, increasing age was associated with a greater detrimental effect of tyrosine compared with placebo on proactive slowing. Moreover, with increasing age, tyrosine decreased fronto-striatal and parietal proactive signal, which correlated positively with tyrosine's effects on proactive slowing. Concluding, tyrosine negatively affected proactive response slowing and associated fronto-striatal activation in an age-dependent manner, highlighting the importance of catecholamines, perhaps particularly dopamine, for proactive response inhibition in older adults.


dopamine; functional MRI; healthy aging; response inhibition

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