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Brain. 2019 Mar 1;142(3):733-743. doi: 10.1093/brain/awz007.

Dopamine metabolism of the nucleus accumbens and fronto-striatal connectivity modulate impulse control.

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Multimodal Neuroimaging Group, Department of Nuclear Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital Cologne, University of Cologne, Germany.
Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Marburg, Germany.
Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research, Cologne, Germany.
Cologne Cluster of Excellence in Cellular Stress and Aging-Associated Disease (CECAD), University of Cologne, Germany.
Department of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital Cologne, University of Cologne, Germany.
Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-3), Research Center Jülich, Germany.
German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Germany.


Impulsive-compulsive behaviours like pathological gambling or hypersexuality are a frequent side effect of dopamine replacement therapy in patients with Parkinson's disease. Multiple imaging studies suggest a significant reduction of presynaptic dopamine transporters in the nucleus accumbens to be a predisposing factor, reflecting either a reduction of mesolimbic projections or, alternatively, a lower presynaptic dopamine transporter expression per se. Here, we aimed to test the hypothesis of fewer mesolimbic projections as a risk factor by using dopamine synthesis capacity as a proxy of dopaminergic terminal density. Furthermore, previous studies have demonstrated a reduction of fronto-striatal connectivity to be associated with increased risk of impulsive-compulsive behaviour in Parkinson's disease. Therefore, another aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between severity of impulsive-compulsive behaviour, dopamine synthesis capacity and fronto-striatal connectivity. Eighty participants underwent resting state functional MRI and anatomical T1-weighted images [mean age: 68 ± 9.9 years, 67% male (patients)]. In 59 participants, 18F-DOPA-PET was obtained and voxel-wise Patlak slopes indicating dopamine synthesis capacity were calculated. All participants completed the QUIP-RS questionnaire, a well validated test to quantify severity of impulsive-compulsive behaviour in Parkinson's disease. A voxel-wise correlation analysis between dopamine synthesis capacity and QUIP-RS score was calculated for striatal regions. To investigate the relationship between symptom severity and functional connectivity, voxel-wise correlations were performed. A negative correlation was found between dopamine synthesis capacity and QUIP-RS score in the nucleus accumbens (r = -0.57, P = 0.001), a region functionally connected to the rostral anterior cingulate cortex. The connectivity strength was modulated by QUIP-RS, i.e. patients with more severe impulsive-compulsive behaviours had a weaker functional connectivity between rostral anterior cingulate cortex and the nucleus accumbens. In addition, cortical thickness and severity of impulsive-compulsive behaviour were positively correlated in the subgenual rostral anterior cingulate cortex. We found three factors to be associated with severity of impulsive-compulsive behaviour: (i) decreased dopamine synthesis capacity in the nucleus accumbens; (ii) decreased functional connectivity of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex with the nucleus accumbens; and (iii) increased cortical thickness of the subgenual rostral anterior cingulate cortex. Rather than a downregulation of dopamine transporters, a reduction of mesolimbic dopaminergic projections in conjunction with a dysfunctional rostral anterior cingulate cortex-a region known to play a key role in impulse control-could be the most crucial neurobiological risk factor for the development of impulsive-compulsive behaviours in patients with Parkinson's disease under dopamine replacement therapy.


Parkinson’s disease; imaging; impulsivity and inhibition disorders


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