Evidence of dopamine dysfunction in the hypothalamus of patients with Parkinson's disease: An in vivo 11C-raclopride PET study

Marios Politis, Paola Piccini, Nicola Pavese, Seong Beom Koh, David J. Brooks

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105 Citations (Scopus)


A mild to moderate reduction in dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin levels alongside a progressive loss of hypocretin cells and melanin hormone concentrating cells has been reported in the hypothalamus of PD at postmortem. Hypothalamic uptake of 18F-dopa PET, an in vivo marker of dysfunction of monoaminergic neurons, is also significantly reduced in these patients. These data indicate a general impairment of hypothalamic function in PD. Dopamine receptors play an important role in the regulation of hypothalamic pathways. To date, possible changes in hypothalamic D2 receptor availability have not been investigated in PD. The objective in this study was to assess dopamine D2 receptor availability in hypothalamus of patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) using positron emission tomography (PET) with 11C-raclopride (RAC). We evaluated D2 binding in RAC PET images of 14 PD patients using both region of interest (ROI) analysis and a voxel based approach. ROIs for the hypothalamus were traced on the subject's MRI co-registered to the PET image. 11C-raclopride binding potentials (BP) for hypothalamus were obtained by applying ROIs onto parametric images. Findings were compared with those of 9 normal controls. We found a significant reduction in the mean hypothalamic RAC BP of the PD patients compared with the normal controls (0.2714 ± 0.06 vs. 0.3861 ± 0.04; mean ± SD; p = 0.0005). ROI results were confirmed with statistical parametric mapping (SPM). Individual hypothalamic BP values of PD patients did not correlate with age, disease duration, disease severity and levodopa equivalent dose. It remains to be ascertained whether the reductions in hypothalamic D2 receptor availability seen in PD are disease related, the results of chronic exposure to levodopa or both. Our results provide further evidence of dopaminergic dysfunction in the hypothalamus in PD, and this may contribute to the development of sleep, endocrine and autonomic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-116
Number of pages5
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Nov
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • 11C-Raclopride
  • Dopamine D receptors
  • Dopamine D receptors
  • Hypothalamus
  • PD (Parkinson's disease)
  • PET (positron emission tomography)
  • Putamen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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