In vivo evidence for greater amphetamine-induced dopamine release in pathological gambling: a positron emission tomography study with [(11)C]-(+)-PHNO

Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Dec;19(12):1305-13. doi: 10.1038/mp.2013.163. Epub 2013 Dec 10.


Drug addiction has been associated with deficits in mesostriatal dopamine (DA) function, but whether this state extends to behavioral addictions such as pathological gambling (PG) is unclear. Here we used positron emission tomography and the D3 receptor-preferring radioligand [(11)C]-(+)-PHNO during a dual-scan protocol to investigate DA release in response to oral amphetamine in pathological gamblers (n=12) and healthy controls (n=11). In contrast with human neuroimaging findings in drug addiction, we report the first evidence that PG is associated with greater DA release in dorsal striatum (54-63% greater [(11)C]-(+)-PHNO displacement) than controls. Importantly, dopaminergic response to amphetamine in gamblers was positively predicted by D3 receptor levels (measured in substantia nigra), and related to gambling severity, allowing for construction of a mechanistic model that could help explain DA contributions to PG. Our results are consistent with a hyperdopaminergic state in PG, and support the hypothesis that dopaminergic sensitization involving D3-related mechanisms might contribute to the pathophysiology of behavioral addictions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Gambling / diagnostic imaging
  • Gambling / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Oxazines
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3 / metabolism
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Oxazines
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • naxagolide
  • Amphetamine
  • Dopamine