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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Andrew H. Miller, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Winship Cancer Institute, 1365-B Clifton Rd, Fifth Floor, Atlanta, GA 30322 (amill02@emory.edu)


Research Funding:

This work was supported by funds from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH067990 [Dr Miller]) and the DANA Foundation (Dr Capuron). In addition, the study was supported by Public Health Service grant UL1 RR025008 from the Clinical and Translational Science Award program and Public Health Service grant M01 RR0039 from the General Clinical Research Center program, National Institutes of Health, National Center for Research Resources.

Dopaminergic Mechanisms of Reduced Basal Ganglia Responses to Hedonic Reward During Interferon Alfa Administration


Journal Title:

Archives of General Psychiatry


Volume 69, Number 10


, Pages 1044-1053

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Context Inflammatory cytokines or cytokine inducers can alter basal ganglia activity, including reducing responsiveness to rewarding stimuli that may be mediated by cytokine effects on dopamine function. Objectives To determine whether long-term administration of the inflammatory cytokine interferon alfa reduces the basal ganglia response to reward and whether such changes are associated with decreased presynaptic striatal dopamine function and altered behavior. Design Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Setting Outpatient research unit and neuroimaging facilities at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Patients Medically stable adults with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection eligible for interferon alfa treatment. Main Outcome Measures Neural activity in the ventral striatum during a hedonic reward task as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging, uptake and turnover of radiolabeled fluorodopa F 18 (18F-dopa) in caudate and putamen using positron emission tomography, and interferon alfa–induced depression, anhedonia, fatigue, and neurotoxicity. Results Patients with HCV receiving interferon alfa for 4 to 6 weeks (n=14) exhibited significantly reduced bilateral activation of the ventral striatum in the win vs lose condition of a gambling task compared with patients with HCV awaiting interferon alfa treatment (n=14). Reduced activation of the ventral striatum was, in turn, significantly correlated with anhedonia, depression, and fatigue. In a separate longitudinal study, patients with HCV treated with interferon alfa for 4 to 6 weeks (n=12) exhibited significantly increased 18F-dopa uptake and decreased 18F-dopa turnover in caudate and putamen and in the same ventral striatal regions identified in the functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Baseline and percentage change in 18F-dopa uptake and turnover were correlated with behavioral alterations, including depression, fatigue, and neurotoxicity, during interferon alfa administration. Conclusions These data replicate and extend findings that inflammatory stimuli, including inflammatory cytokines, such as interferon alfa, alter basal ganglia activity and behavior in association with significant changes in presynaptic striatal dopamine function consistent with decreased dopamine synthesis or release.

Copyright information:

©2012 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.

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