Effects of dopaminergic and serotonergic manipulation on emotional processing: a pharmacological fMRI study

Neuroimage. 2005 Oct 1;27(4):991-1001. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.05.039.


Recent neuroimaging studies have demonstrated abnormal central emotional processing in psychiatric disorders. The dopamine (DA) systems and serotonin (5-HT) systems are the main target of psychopharmacotherapy. DA D2 receptor antagonists and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are widely used in psychiatric practice. Investigating the effects of these drugs on emotional processing should lead to a better understanding of the pathophysiology and pharmacotherapy of neuropsychiatric disorders. We aimed to examine effects of dopaminergic and serotonergic manipulation on neural responses to unpleasant pictures in healthy volunteers using pharmacological fMRI. Thirteen healthy male subjects participated in a single-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled design study. Each subject participated in three fMRI sessions. In each session, participants were orally administered either 25 mg of sultopride or 50 mg of fluvoxamine or placebo prior to scanning, and neural responses to unpleasant and neutral pictures were recorded. Despite no significant differences being found in the subjective ratings of affective pictures across three sessions, compared to placebo, acute treatments of DA D2 receptor antagonists and SSRIs commonly attenuated the amygdala activity, although both treatments had slightly different modulatory effects on other components of the neural circuit of emotional processing. This study has shown that even acute treatment of drugs that manipulate neurotransmitter systems could affect brain activation associated with emotional processing in human brain. At the same time, our findings suggest that pharmacological fMRI could be a powerful tool for investigating the neurophysiological properties of drugs targeting neuropsychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amisulpride
  • Amygdala / drug effects
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Dopamine D2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Emotions / drug effects*
  • Fluvoxamine / pharmacology
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Serotonin Agents / pharmacology*
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Sulpiride / analogs & derivatives
  • Sulpiride / pharmacology


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Dopamine D2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Serotonin Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Sulpiride
  • Amisulpride
  • Fluvoxamine