Journal of Neurology

, Volume 261, Issue 12, pp 2251–2263 | Cite as

Dopamine receptor mapping with PET imaging in Parkinson’s disease

  • Flavia Niccolini
  • Paul Su
  • Marios Politis


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder characterised pathologically by the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. These neurons project to the striatum, and their loss leads to alterations in the activity of the neural circuits that regulate movement. The striatal output of the circuit related to the control of movement is mediated by two pathways: the direct striatal pathway, which is mediated through facilitation of D1 receptors, and the indirect striatal pathway, mediated through D2 receptors. Positron emission tomography (PET) molecular imaging is a powerful in vivo technique in which using selective dopaminergic radioligands has been employed to investigate the dopaminergic system in humans. In this article we aim to review the role of PET imaging in understanding the postsynaptic dopaminergic mechanisms in PD. PET studies have allowed us to gain important insights into the functions of the dopaminergic system, the mechanisms of drug-induced motor and non-motor complications, and the placebo effect in PD.


Dopamine D1 receptors D2 receptors Parkinson’s disease PET Raclopride 



Central nervous system


Dopamine transporter




Positron emission tomography


Unified Parkinson’s disease rating scale


Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neurodegeneration Imaging Group, Department of Clinical NeuroscienceKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Division of Brain Sciences, Department of MedicineImperial College LondonLondonUK

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