Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Jun 16. pii: S0006-3223(17)31672-4. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.06.010.
The hypothesis that dopamine plays an important role in the pathophysiology of pathological gambling is pervasive. However, there is little to no direct evidence for a categorical difference between pathological gamblers and healthy control subjects in terms of dopamine transmission in a drug-free state. Here we provide evidence for this hypothesis by comparing dopamine synthesis capacity in the dorsal and ventral parts of the striatum in 13 pathological gamblers and 15 healthy control subjects.
This was achieved using [18F]fluoro-levo-dihydroxyphenylalanine dynamic positron emission tomography scans and striatal regions of interest that were hand-drawn based on visual inspection of individual structural magnetic resonance imaging scans.
Our results show that dopamine synthesis capacity was increased in pathological gamblers compared with healthy control subjects. Dopamine synthesis was 16% higher in the caudate body, 17% higher in the dorsal putamen, and 17% higher in the ventral striatum in pathological gamblers compared with control subjects. Moreover, dopamine synthesis capacity in the dorsal putamen and caudate head was positively correlated with gambling distortions in pathological gamblers.
Taken together, these results provide empirical evidence for increased striatal dopamine synthesis in pathological gambling.
KEYWORDS: Addiction; Dopamine; Gambling; Neuroimaging; Reward; [(18)F]DOPA