Dopaminergic basis of the psychosis-prone personality investigated with functional magnetic resonance imaging of procedural learning

Ulrich Ettinger, Philip J. Corr, Ardeshier Mofidi, Steven C. R. Williams, Veena Kumari

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Previous evidence shows a reliable association between psychosis-prone (especially schizotypal) personality traits and performance on dopamine (DA)-sensitive tasks (e.g., prepulse inhibition and antisaccade). Here, we used blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI and an established procedural learning (PL) task to examine the dopaminergic basis of two aspects of psychosis-proneness (specific schizotypy and general psychoticism). Thirty healthy participants (final N = 26) underwent fMRI during a blocked, periodic sequence-learning task which, in previous studies, has been shown to reveal impaired performance in schizophrenia patients given drugs blocking the DA D2 receptor subtype (DRD2), and to correspond with manipulation of DA activity and elicit fronto-striatal-cerebellar activity in healthy people. Psychosis-proneness was indexed by the Psychoticism (P) scale of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised (EPQ-R; 1991) and the Schizotypal Personality Scale (STA; 1984). EPQ-R Extraversion and Neuroticism scores were also examined to establish discriminant validity. We found a positive correlation between the two psychosis-proneness measures (r = 0.43), and a robust and unique positive association between EPQ-R P and BOLD signal in the putamen, caudate, thalamus, insula, and frontal regions. STA schizotypy score correlated positively with activity in the right middle temporal gyrus. As DA is a key transmitter in the basal ganglia, and the thalamus contains the highest levels of DRD2 receptors of all extrastriatal regions, our results support a dopaminergic basis of psychosis-proneness as measured by the EPQ-R Psychoticism.
Original languageEnglish
Article number130
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2013

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