Dopaminergic modulation of cortical function in patients with Parkinson's disease

Ann Neurol. 2002 Feb;51(2):156-64. doi: 10.1002/ana.10078.


Patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease suffer not only from classic motor symptoms, but from deficits in cognitive function, primarily those subserved by the prefrontal cortex as well. The aim of the current study was to investigate the modulatory effects of dopaminergic therapy on neural systems subserving working memory and motor function in patients with Parkinson's disease. Ten patients with stage I and II Parkinson's disease were studied with functional magnetic resonance imaging, during a relatively hypodopaminergic state (ie, 12 hours after a last dose of dopamimetic treatment), and again during a dopamine-replete state. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed under three conditions: a working memory task, a cued sensorimotor task and rest. Consistent with prior data, the cortical motor regions activated during the motor task showed greater activation during the dopamine-replete state; however, the cortical regions subserving working memory displayed greater activation during the hypodopaminergic state. Interestingly, the increase in cortical activation during the working memory task in the hypodopaminergic state positively correlated with errors in task performance, and the increased activation in the cortical motor regions during the dopamine-replete state was positively correlated with improvement in motor function. These results support evidence from basic research that dopamine modulates cortical networks subserving working memory and motor function via two distinct mechanisms: nigrostriatal projections facilitate motor function indirectly via thalamic projections to motor cortices, whereas the mesocortical dopaminergic system facilitates working memory function via direct inputs to prefrontal cortex. The results are also consistent with evidence that the hypodopaminergic state is associated with decreased efficiency of prefrontal cortical information processing and that dopaminergic therapy improves the physiological efficiency of this region.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Chemistry / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance


  • Dopamine