Journal of cerebral blood flow and metabolism : official journal of the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism

Intravenous ethanol increases dopamine release in the ventral striatum in humans: PET study using bolus-plus-infusion administration of [(11)C]raclopride.

PMID 25492110


Ethanol increases the interstitial dopamine (DA) concentration in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) of experimental animals, but positron emission tomography (PET) studies using the single-bolus protocol of the [(11)C]-raclopride competition paradigm have yielded conflicting results in humans. To resolve disparate previous findings, we utilized the bolus-plus-infusion (B/I) method, allowing both baseline and intervention quantification of [(11)C]raclopride binding during a single 105-minute PET scan, to investigate possible ethanol-induced DA release in nine healthy male subjects. A 25-minute intravenous ethanol (7.6%) infusion, resulting in a 1.3 g/L mean blood ethanol concentration, was administered using masked timing during the PET scan. Automated region-of-interest analysis testing the difference between baseline (40-50 minutes) and intervention (60-85 minutes) revealed an average 12.6% decrease in [(11)C]raclopride binding in the ventral striatum (VST, P=0.003) including the NAcc. In addition, a shorter time interval from the start of ethanol infusion to the first subjective effect was associated with a greater binding potential decrease bilaterally in the VST (r=0.92, P=0.004), and the feeling of pleasure was associated with a decrease in binding potential values in both the caudate nucleus (r=-0.87, P=0.003) and putamen (r=-0.74; P=0.02). These results confirm that ethanol induces rapid DA release in the limbic striatum, which can be reliably estimated using the B/I method in one imaging session.