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The Effects of Antipsychotic Treatment on Presynaptic Dopamine Synthesis Capacity in First-Episode Psychosis: A Positron Emission Tomography Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological psychiatry
Early online date11 Jul 2018
Accepted/In press3 Jul 2018
E-pub ahead of print11 Jul 2018


King's Authors


BACKGROUND: Elevated striatal dopamine synthesis capacity has been implicated in the etiology and antipsychotic response in psychotic illness. The effects of antipsychotic medication on dopamine synthesis capacity are poorly understood, and no prospective studies have examined this question in a solely first-episode psychosis sample. Furthermore, it is unknown whether antipsychotic efficacy is linked to reductions in dopamine synthesis capacity. We conducted a prospective [18F]-dihydroxyphenyl-L-alanine positron emission tomography study in antipsychotic naïve/free people with first-episode psychosis commencing antipsychotic treatment.

METHODS: Dopamine synthesis capacity (indexed as influx rate constant) and clinical symptoms (measured using Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale) were measured before and after at least 5 weeks of antipsychotic treatment in people with first-episode psychosis. Data from a prior study indicated that a sample size of 13 would have >80% power to detect a statistically significant change in dopamine synthesis capacity at alpha = .05 (two tailed).

RESULTS: A total of 20 people took part in the study, 17 of whom were concordant with antipsychotic medication at therapeutic doses. There was no significant effect of treatment on dopamine synthesis capacity in the whole striatum (p = .47), thalamus, or midbrain, nor was there any significant relationship between change in dopamine synthesis capacity and change in positive (ρ = .35, p = .13), negative, or total psychotic symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: Dopamine synthesis capacity is unaltered by antipsychotic treatment, and therapeutic effects are not mediated by changes in this aspect of dopaminergic function.

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