Evidence from several lines of research suggests decreased dopamine release in the prefrontal cortex as the neurochemical correlates of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia (SCZ). However, in vivo examination of cortical hypodopaminergia using positron emission tomography (PET) during cognitive task performance in SCZ remains to be investigated. We examined dopamine release in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), using PET while participants were performing a cognitive task. Thirteen drug-free patients with SCZ and 13 healthy volunteers (HV) matched for age and sex participated in the study. Data were acquired between 2011 and 2015. Two PET scans with [11C]FLB 457 were acquired while the participants were performing the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) and a sensorimotor control task (SMCT). A magnetic resonance image was acquired for anatomical delineation. Differences in cortical dopamine release between SCZ and HV, indexed as percentage change in binding potential between WCST and SMCT (ΔBPND), were calculated in ACC and DLPFC. We observed significant differences in the ΔBPND in ACC (HV = 4.40 ± 6.00; SCZ = -11.48 ± 15.08; t = 3.52; P = .003) and a trendlevel difference in ΔBPND in DLPFC (HV = -0.58 ± 8.45; SCZ = -7.79 ± 11.28; t = 1.84; P = .079), suggesting dopamine depletion in cortical brain regions in patients with SCZ while performing a cognitive task. These results provide the first in vivo evidence for reduced dopamine release or even dopamine depletion while performing cognitive task in ACC and DLPFC in patients with SCZ. The present results provide support for the frontal hypodopaminergia hypothesis of cognitive symptoms in SCZ.
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