Dopaminergic modulation of the human reward system: A placebo-controlled dopamine depletion fMRI study

Fabiana Da Silva Alves, Nicole Schmitz, Martijn Figee, Nico Abeling, Gregor Hasler, Johan Van Der Meer, Aart Nederveen, Lieuwe De Haan, Don Linszen, Therese Van Amelsvoort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Reward related behaviour is linked to dopaminergic neurotransmission. Our aim was to gain insight into dopaminergic involvement in the human reward system. Combining functional magnetic resonance imaging with dopaminergic depletion by α-methylparatyrosine we measured dopamine-related brain activity in 10 healthy volunteers. In addition to blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) contrast we assessed the effect of dopaminergic depletion on prolactin response, peripheral markers for dopamine and norepinephrine. In the placebo condition we found increased activation in the left caudate and left cingulate gyrus during anticipation of reward. In the α-methylparatyrosine condition there was no significant brain activation during anticipation of reward or loss. In α-methylparatyrosine, anticipation of reward vs. loss increased activation in the right insula, left frontal, right parietal cortices and right cingulate gyrus. Comparing placebo versus α-methylparatyrosine showed increased activation in the left cingulate gyrus during anticipation of reward and the left medial frontal gyrus during anticipation of loss. α-methylparatyrosine reduced levels of dopamine in urine and homovanillic acid in plasma and increased prolactin. No significant effect of α-methylparatyrosine was found on norepinephrine markers. Our findings implicate distinct patterns of BOLD underlying reward processing following dopamine depletion, suggesting a role of dopaminergic neurotransmission for anticipation of monetary reward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-549
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • AMPT
  • PhMRI
  • anticipation
  • dopamine
  • dopamine depletion
  • fMRI
  • loss
  • reward
  • striatum


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