Letter | Published:

Evidence for striatal dopamine release during a video game

Nature volume 393, pages 266268 (21 May 1998) | Download Citation



Dopaminergic neurotransmission may be involved in learning, reinforcement of behaviour, attention, and sensorimotor integration1,2. Binding of the radioligand 11C-labelled raclopride to dopamine D2 receptors is sensitive to levels of endogenous dopamine, which can be released by pharmacological challenge3,4,5,6,7,8. Here we use 11C-labelled raclopride and positron emission tomography scans to provide evidence that endogenous dopamine is released in the human striatum during a goal-directed motor task, namely a video game. Binding of raclopride to dopamine receptors in the striatum was significantly reduced during the video game compared with baseline levels of binding, consistent with increased release and binding of dopamine to its receptors. The reduction in binding of raclopride in the striatum positively correlated with the performance level during the task and was greatest in the ventral striatum. These results show, to our knowledge for the first time, behavioural conditions under which dopamine is released in humans, and illustrate the ability of positron emission tomography to detect neurotransmitter fluxes in vivo during manipulations of behaviour.

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M.J.K. was supported by a grant from the Theodore and Vada Stanley Foundation Research Program; R.N.G., V.J.C., D.J.B. and P.M.G. were supported by the Medical Research Council; and A.D.L. was supported by a fellowship from the British Brain and Spine Foundation. We thank P. Dayan and L. Farde for discussions and comments on the manuscript; and K. Friston, A. Holmes and J.Ashburner for statistical advice and help with the SPM analysis.

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  1. MRC Cyclotron Unit, Hammersmith Hospital, DuCane Road, London W12 0NN, UK, and Division of Neuroscience and Psychological Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine, St Dunstan's Road, London W6 8RP, UK

    • M. J. Koepp
    • , R. N. Gunn
    • , A. D. Lawrence
    • , V. J. Cunningham
    • , A. Dagher
    • , T. Jones
    • , D. J. Brooks
    • , C. J. Bench
    •  & P. M. Grasby


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Correspondence to P. M. Grasby.

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