BACKGROUND - Studies in schizophrenic patients have reported dopaminergic abnormalities in striatum, substantia nigra, thalamus, anterior cingulate, hippocampus, and cortex that have been related to positive symptoms and cognitive impairments.
METHODS - [(18)F]fallypride positron emission tomography studies were performed in off-medication or never-medicated schizophrenic subjects (n = 11, 6 men, 5 women; mean age of 30.5 +/- 8.0 [SD] years; 4 drug-naive) and age-matched healthy subjects (n = 11, 5 men, 6 women, mean age of 31.6 +/- 9.2 [SD]) to examine dopamine D(2) receptor (DA D(2)r) levels in the caudate, putamen, ventral striatum, medial thalamus, posterior thalamus, substantia nigra, amygdala, temporal cortex, anterior cingulate, and hippocampus.
RESULTS - In schizophrenic subjects, increased DA D(2)r levels were seen in the substantia nigra bilaterally; decreased levels were seen in the left medial thalamus. Correlations of symptoms with ROI data demonstrated a significant correlation of disorganized thinking/nonparanoid delusions with the right temporal cortex ROI (r = .94, p = .0001), which remained significant after correction for multiple comparisons (p < .03). Correlations of symptoms with parametric images of DA D(2)r levels revealed no significant clusters of correlations with negative symptoms but significant clusters of positive correlations of total positive symptoms, delusions and bizarre behavior with the lateral and anterior temporal cortex, and hallucinations with the left ventral striatum.
CONCLUSIONS - The results of this study demonstrate abnormal DA D(2)r-mediated neurotransmission in the substantia nigra consistent with nigral dysfunction in schizophrenia and suggest that both temporal cortical and ventral striatal DA D(2)r mediate positive symptoms.