MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Slifstein: There has been considerable basic and clinical neuroscience research showing that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a role in tuning cognitive processes taking place in the cortex. It has long been thought that dopamine is involved in the cognitive difficulties experienced by patients with schizophrenia, but it has been challenging to study dopamine in the cortex and other parts of the brain except in a deep structure rich in this neurotransmitter and its receptors, the striatum. In our study, we used an experimental design with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging that allowed us to infer the amount of dopamine in the cortex.
MedicalResearch: What are the main findings?
Dr. Slifstein: The main findings are that patients with schizophrenia do not have enough dopamine in the cortex, which may cause the cortex to function suboptimally. Because dopamine fine tunes the signal to noise ratio and affects the manner in which the cortex processes information, deficits are likely to lead to difficulties in this function.