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Dopamine in amygdala gates limbic processing of aversive stimuli in humans


Dopamine is released under stress and modulates processing of aversive stimuli. We found that dopamine storage capacity in human amygdala, measured with 6-[18F]fluoro-L-DOPA positron emission tomography, was positively correlated with functional magnetic resonance imaging blood oxygen level–dependent signal changes in amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex that were evoked by aversive stimuli. Furthermore, functional connectivity between these two regions was inversely related to trait anxiety. Our results suggest that individual dopamine storage capacity in amygdala subserves modulation of emotional processing in amygdala and dorsal cingulate, thereby contributing to individual differences in anxious temperament.

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Figure 1: Correlation between FDOPA steady-state storage capacity (Vd) in the left amygdala and fMRI BOLD response elicited by negative versus neutral stimuli in the left amygdala in 13 healthy subjects.


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FDOPA plasma metabolite analysis was performed by S. Hoehnemann (University of Mainz). This study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (HE 2597/4-3, HE 2597/7-3 and SM 80/2-2). A.R.H. is supported by the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression and US National Institutes of Health grant MH072837.

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Correspondence to Andreas Heinz.

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Dr. Gründer has served as a consultant for Astra Zeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka and Pfizer. He has served on the speakers' bureau of Astra Zeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen Cilag, Otsuka, Pfizer, Servier and Wyeth. He has received grant support from Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

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Kienast, T., Hariri, A., Schlagenhauf, F. et al. Dopamine in amygdala gates limbic processing of aversive stimuli in humans. Nat Neurosci 11, 1381–1382 (2008).

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