Recent studies have linked dopamine to differences in behavior and brain activity in normal individuals. We explored these relationships in older and younger adults by investigating how functional connectivity between the striatum and prefrontal cortex is related to caudate dopamine and verbal working memory task performance. We studied 12 young and 18 older participants with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during this task, and used positron emission tomography with the tracer 6-[(18)F]-fluoro-L-m-tyrosine (FMT) to assess dopamine synthesis capacity. Younger adults had a greater extent of frontal caudate functional connectivity during the load-dependent delay period of the working memory task than the older participants. Across all subjects, the extent of this functional connectivity was negatively correlated with dopamine synthesis capacity, such that participants with the greatest connectivity had the lowest caudate 6-[(18)F]-fluoro-L-m-tyrosine (FMT) signal. Additionally, the extent of functional connectivity was positively correlated with working memory performance. Overall these data suggest interdependencies exist between frontostriatal functional connectivity, dopamine, and working memory performance and that this system is functioning suboptimally in normal aging.
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