Exercise increases caudate dopamine release and ventral striatal activation in Parkinson's disease

Mov Disord. 2019 Dec;34(12):1891-1900. doi: 10.1002/mds.27865. Epub 2019 Oct 4.


Background: The objective of this study was to examine the effects of aerobic exercise on evoked dopamine release and activity of the ventral striatum using positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging in Parkinson's disease (PD).

Methods: Thirty-five participants were randomly allocated to a 36-session aerobic exercise or control intervention. Each participant underwent an functional magnetic resonance imaging scan while playing a reward task before and after the intervention to determine the effect of exercise on the activity of the ventral striatum in anticipation of reward. A subset of participants (n = 25) completed [11 C] raclopride positron emission tomography scans to determine the effect of aerobic exercise on repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation-evoked release of endogenous dopamine in the dorsal striatum. All participants completed motor (MDS-UPDRS part III, finger tapping, Timed-up-and-go) and nonmotor assessments (Starkstein Apathy Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, reaction time, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, Trail Making Test [A and B], and Montreal Cognitive Assessment) before and after the interventions.

Results: The aerobic group exhibited increased activity in the ventral striatum during functional magnetic resonance imaging in anticipation of 75% probability of reward (P = 0.01). The aerobic group also demonstrated increased repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation-evoked dopamine release in the caudate nucleus (P = 0.04) and increased baseline nondisplaceable binding potential in the posterior putamen of the less affected repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation-stimulated hemisphere measured by position emission tomography (P = 0.03).

Conclusions: Aerobic exercise alters the responsivity of the ventral striatum, likely related to changes to the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway, and increases evoked dopamine release in the caudate nucleus. This suggests that the therapeutic benefits of exercise are in part related to corticostriatal plasticity and enhanced dopamine release. © 2019 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; dopamine release; exercise; function magnetic resonance imaging; positron emission tomography.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caudate Nucleus / diagnostic imaging
  • Caudate Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Ventral Striatum / diagnostic imaging
  • Ventral Striatum / metabolism*


  • Dopamine