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Mol Imaging Biol. 2019 May 28. doi: 10.1007/s11307-019-01377-8. [Epub ahead of print]

Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Density in the "Higher-Order" Thalamus Projecting to the Prefrontal Cortex in Humans: a PET Study.

Author information

1
Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Division, Diagnostic Department, University Hospitals of Geneva, 4 rue Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil, 1211, 14, Genève, Switzerland. valentina.garibotto@hcuge.ch.
2
Faculty of Medicine, Geneva University, 1211, Geneva, Switzerland. valentina.garibotto@hcuge.ch.
3
Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Division, Diagnostic Department, University Hospitals of Geneva, 4 rue Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil, 1211, 14, Genève, Switzerland.
4
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
5
Faculty of Medicine, Geneva University, 1211, Geneva, Switzerland. fabienne.picard@hcuge.ch.
6
EEG and Epilepsy Unit, Department of Neurology, University Hospitals of Geneva and Medical School of Geneva, 4 rue Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil, 1211, 14, Genève, Switzerland. fabienne.picard@hcuge.ch.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

The parcellation of the thalamus into different nuclei involved in different corticothalamocortical loops reflects its functional diversity. The connections between the mediodorsal nucleus and the prefrontal cortex play a major role in cognition, particularly in the rapid processing of behaviorally relevant information. The thalamus is the brain region with the highest density in α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, the main human nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtype. The aim of this study was to investigate the possible role of the nicotinic cholinergic system in the thalamo-cortical loops measuring receptor density in different subregions of the thalamus, based on their cortical connectivity.

PROCEDURES:

We studied α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors using positron emission tomography and [18F]Fluoro-A-85380, a radiotracer specific for this receptor subtype, in 36 non-smoking male subjects, including 12 healthy controls and 24 patients with epilepsy. [18F]Fluoro-A-85380 ratio index of binding potential was compared by a repeated measures general linear model, including the thalamic subregions and the brain hemisphere as within-subject factor and clinical groups as between-subject factor.

RESULTS:

The "prefrontal" thalamus, the subregion including the mediodorsal nucleus, had a significantly higher nicotinic acetylcholine receptor density than all other thalamic subregions. These findings were confirmed when analyzing solely the 12 healthy controls.

CONCLUSIONS:

This particular neurochemical organization of the thalamus supports a major role of the cholinergic system in the loops between the thalamus and the prefrontal cortex. The highest nicotinic acetylcholine receptor density in the « higher-order thalamus » could partly explain the beneficial effect of acute nicotine on attentional and executive functions and possibly the pathophysiology of some neuropsychiatric disorders.

KEYWORDS:

Fluoro-A-85380; Mediodorsal nucleus; Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; PET; Thalamus

PMID:
31140109
DOI:
10.1007/s11307-019-01377-8

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