Objective: The study examined the influence of losses in dopaminergic function on age-related cognitive deficits.
Method: Eleven healthy subjects (21-68 years of age) completed a set of cognitive tasks used to assess perceptual speed and episodic memory. D(2) receptor binding was measured in the caudate and the putamen by using positron emission tomography.
Results: A gradual age-related deterioration was found for all cognitive tasks and for D(2) binding in both striatal structures. Statistical control of D(2) binding eliminated the age-related cognitive variation, whereas residual effects of D(2) binding were seen after the analysis controlled for age.
Conclusions: D(2) receptor binding is a more important factor than chronological age in accounting for variation in cognitive performance across the adult lifespan. Changes in dopaminergic neurotransmission play an important role in aging-related cognitive decline.