Recent advances in imaging of dopaminergic neurons for evaluation of neuropsychiatric disorders

J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012;2012:259349. doi: 10.1155/2012/259349. Epub 2012 Apr 10.


Dopamine is the most intensely studied monoaminergic neurotransmitter. Dopaminergic neurotransmission plays an important role in regulating several aspects of basic brain function, including motor, behavior, motivation, and working memory. To date, there are numerous positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) radiotracers available for targeting different steps in the process of dopaminergic neurotransmission, which permits us to quantify dopaminergic activity in the living human brain. Degeneration of the nigrostriatal dopamine system causes Parkinson's disease (PD) and related Parkinsonism. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that has been classically associated with the reinforcing effects of drug abuse. Abnormalities within the dopamine system in the brain are involved in the pathophysiology of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dopamine receptors play an important role in schizophrenia and the effect of neuroleptics is through blockage of dopamine D(2) receptors. This review will concentrate on the radiotracers that have been developed for imaging dopaminergic neurons, describe the clinical aspects in the assessment of neuropsychiatric disorders, and suggest future directions in the diagnosis and management of such disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnostic imaging
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / pathology
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Mental Disorders / pathology*
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Radioactive Tracers
  • Schizophrenia / diagnostic imaging
  • Schizophrenia / pathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon


  • Radioactive Tracers