Small-animal positron emission tomography as a tool for neuropharmacology

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2010 Sep;31(9):411-7. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2010 Jul 6.


Small-animal positron emission tomography (PET) is a preclinical imaging method that uses pharmacologically or biochemically active compounds labelled with short-lived positron-emitting radionuclides. This non-invasive nuclear medicine technique requiring animal-dedicated PET cameras (microPET) enables in vivo measurements of physiological processes, biochemical pathways and neurotransmitters. It therefore has a role in studying the pathophysiology and pharmacology of the brain. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that microPET imaging can accelerate drug development by revealing early information regarding biomarkers of pathophysiology or drug mechanisms and cerebral bioavailability. This review presents the potential contribution of microPET in basic neuropharmacology, illustrating its recent contributions and methodological specificities as well as highlighting its limits and constraints. In addition, we aim to encourage the use of PET molecular imaging in basic neuropharmacology to complement other preclinical approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / administration & dosage


  • Radiopharmaceuticals