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Reduced mu opioid receptor availability in schizophrenia revealed with [11C]-carfentanil Positron Emission Tomographic Imaging

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Communications
Early online date4 Sep 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Sep 2019

King's Authors


Negative symptoms, such as amotivation and anhedonia, are a major cause of functional impairment in schizophrenia. There are currently no licensed treatments for negative symptoms, highlighting the need to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying them. Mu-opioid receptors (MOR) in the striatum play a key role in hedonic processing and reward function and are reduced post-mortem in schizophrenia. However, it is unknown if mu-opioid receptor availability is altered in-vivo or related to negative symptoms in schizophrenia. Using [11C]-carfentanil positron emission tomography (PET) scans in 19 schizophrenia patients and 20 age-matched healthy controls, here we show a significantly lower MOR availability in patients with schizophrenia in the striatum (Cohen's d= 0.7), and the hedonic network. In addition, we report a marked global increase in inter-regional covariance of MOR availability in schizophrenia, largely due to increased cortical-subcortical covariance.

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