The Topography of Striatal Dopamine and Symptoms in Psychosis: An Integrative Positron Emission Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

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Background: Striatal dopamine dysfunction is thought to underlie symptoms in psychosis, yet it remains unclear how a single neurotransmitter could cause the diverse presentations that are observed clinically. One hypothesis is that the consequences of aberrant dopamine signaling vary depending on where within the striatum the dysfunction occurs. Positron emission tomography allows for the quantification of dopamine function across the striatum. In the current study, we used a novel method to investigate the relationship between spatial variability in dopamine synthesis capacity and psychotic symptoms. Methods: We used a multimodal imaging approach combining 18F-DOPA positron emission tomography and resting-state magnetic resonance imaging in 29 patients with first-episode psychosis and 21 healthy control subjects. In each participant, resting-state functional connectivity maps were used to quantify the functional connectivity of each striatal voxel to well-established cortical networks. Network-specific striatal dopamine synthesis capacity (Kicer) was then calculated for the resulting connectivity-defined parcellations. Results: The connectivity-defined parcellations generated Kicer values with equivalent reliability, and significantly greater orthogonality compared with standard anatomical parcellation methods. As a result, dopamine-symptom associations were significantly different from one another for different subdivisions, whereas no unique subdivision relationships were found when using an anatomical parcellation. In particular, dopamine function within striatal areas connected to the default mode network was strongly associated with negative symptoms (p < .001). Conclusions: These findings suggest that individual differences in the topography of dopamine dysfunction within the striatum contribute to shaping psychotic symptomatology. Further validation of the novel approach in future studies is necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1040-1051
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number11
Early online date23 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Functional connectivity
  • Negative symptoms
  • Positive symptoms
  • Resting state
  • Schizophrenia
  • Striatum


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