3 years ago

Dopaminergic abnormalities following traumatic brain injury.

James H Cole, Gregory Scott, Sara De Simoni, David J Sharp, David J Towey, Maneesh Patel, Niall J Bourke, Richard Greenwood, Jessica Fleminger, Peter O Jenkins, Sameer Khan, William Svensson
Traumatic brain injury can reduce striatal dopamine levels. The cause of this is uncertain, but is likely to be related to damage to the nigrostriatal system. We investigated the pattern of striatal dopamine abnormalities using 123I-Ioflupane single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans and their relationship to nigrostriatal damage and clinical features. We studied 42 moderate-severe traumatic brain injury patients with cognitive impairments but no motor parkinsonism signs and 20 healthy controls. 123I-Ioflupane scanning was used to assess dopamine transporter levels. Clinical scan reports were compared to quantitative dopamine transporter results. Advanced MRI methods were used to assess the nigrostriatal system, including the area through which the nigrostriatal projections pass as defined from high-resolution Human Connectome data. Detailed clinical and neuropsychological assessments were performed. Around 20% of our moderate-severe patients had clear evidence of reduced specific binding ratios for the dopamine transporter in the striatum measured using 123I-Ioflupane SPECT. The caudate was affected more consistently than other striatal regions. Dopamine transporter abnormalities were associated with reduced substantia nigra volume. In addition, diffusion MRI provided evidence of damage to the regions through which the nigrostriatal tract passes, particularly the area traversed by dopaminergic projections to the caudate. Only a small percentage of patients had evidence of macroscopic lesions in the striatum and there was no relationship between presence of lesions and dopamine transporter specific binding ratio abnormalities. There was also no relationship between reduced volume in the striatal subregions and reduced dopamine transporter specific binding ratios. Patients with low caudate dopamine transporter specific binding ratios show impaired processing speed and executive dysfunction compared to patients with normal levels. Taken together, our results suggest that the dopaminergic system is affected by a moderate-severe traumatic brain injury in a significant proportion of patients, even in the absence of clinical motor parkinsonism. Reduced dopamine transporter levels are most commonly seen in the caudate and this is likely to reflect the pattern of nigrostriatal tract damage produced by axonal injury and associated midbrain damage.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awx357

DOI: 10.1093/brain/awx357

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