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Spontaneous eye blink rate and dopamine synthesis capacity: Preliminary evidence for an absence of positive correlation

By Guillaume Sescousse, Romain Ligneul, Ruth J. van Holst, Lieneke K. Janssen, Femke de Boer, Marcel Janssen, Anne S Berry, William J Jagust, Roshan Cools

Posted 17 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/215178 (published DOI: 10.1111/ejn.13895)

Dopamine is central to a number of cognitive functions and brain disorders. Given the cost of neurochemical imaging in humans, behavioral proxy measures of dopamine have gained in popularity in the past decade, such as spontaneous eye blink rate (sEBR). Increased sEBR is commonly associated with increased dopamine function based on pharmacological evidence and patient studies. Yet, this hypothesis has not been validated using in vivo measures of dopamine function in humans. In order to fill this gap, we measured sEBR and striatal dopamine synthesis capacity using [18F]DOPA PET in 20 participants (9 healthy individuals and 11 pathological gamblers). Our results, based on frequentist and Bayesian statistics, as well as region-of-interest and voxel-wise analyses, argue against a positive relationship between sEBR and striatal dopamine synthesis capacity. They show that, if anything, the evidence is in favor of a negative relationship. These results, which complement findings from a recent study that failed to observe a relationship between sEBR and dopamine D2 receptor availability, suggest that caution and nuance are warranted when interpreting sEBR in terms of a proxy measure of striatal dopamine.

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