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The Quarterly Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging 2017 December;61(4):414-28

DOI: 10.23736/S1824-4785.17.03019-9


lingua: Inglese

News and views on in-vivo imaging of neurotransmission using PET and MRI

Christin Y. SANDER 1, 2 , Swen HESSE 3, 4

1 Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA, USA; 2 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; 3 Department of Nuclear Medicine, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany; 4 Integrated Treatment and Research Center (IFB) Adiposity Diseases, Leipzig University Medical Center, Leipzig, Germany


Molecular neuroimaging with PET is an integrated tool in psychiatry research and drug-development for as long as this modality has been available, in particular for studying neurotransmission and endogenous neurotransmitter release. Pharmacologic, behavioral and other types of challenges are currently applied to induce changes in neurochemical levels that can be inferred through their effects on changes in receptor binding and related outcome measures. Based on the availability of tracers that are sensitive for measuring neurotransmitter release these experiments have focused on the brain’s dopamine system, while recent developments have extended those studies to other targets such as the serotonin or choline system. With the introduction of hybrid, truly simultaneous PET/MRI systems, in-vivo imaging of the dynamics of neuroreceptor signal transmission in the brain using PET and functional MRI (fMRI) has become possible. fMRI has the ability to provide information about the effects of receptor function that are complementary to the PET measurement. Dynamic acquisition of both PET and fMRI signals enables not only an in-vivo real-time assessment of neurotransmitter or drug binding to receptors but also dynamic receptor adaptations and receptor-specific neurotransmission. While fMRI temporal resolution is comparatively fast in relation to PET, the timescale of observable biological processes is highly dependent on the kinetics of radiotracers and study design. Overall, the combination of the specificity of PET radiotracers to neuroreceptors, fMRI signal as a functional readout and integrated study design promises to expand our understanding of the location, propagation and connections of brain activity in health and disease.

KEY WORDS: Positron-emission tomography - Dopamine - Synaptic transmission

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