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Increased presynaptic dopamine function in Asperger syndrome

Nieminen-von Wendt, Taina S.CA; Metsähonkala, Liisa1; Kulomäki, Tuula A.; Aalto, Sargo1; Autti, Taina H.2; Vanhala, Raija; Eskola, Olli3; Bergman, Jörgen3; Hietala, Jarmo A.1 4; von Wendt, Lennart O.


The etiology of Asperger syndrome is essentially unknown, but abnormality of the dopamine system has been shown in clinically overlapping disorders. The present study was designed to investigate the presynaptic dopamine function in Asperger syndrome. Eight healthy, drug-free males with Asperger syndrome and five healthy male controls were examined with positron emission tomography using 6-[18F]fluoro-L-DOPA ([18F]FDOPA) as a tracer. In the Asperger syndrome group, the [18F]FDOPA influx (Ki) values were increased in the striatum, i.e. in the putamen and caudate nucleus and in the frontal cortex. The results indicate that the dopamine system is affected in subjects with Asperger syndrome. Partially similar results have also been obtained in schizophrenia, suggesting an overlap not only of the clinical features but also of pathogenesis.

Department of Child Neurology, Hospital for Children and Adolescents

2Department of Radiology, Helsinki University Central Hospital, PL 280, FIN-00029 HYKS, Helsinki

1Turku PET Centre

3Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry Laboratory, Turku PET Centre

4Department of Psychiatry, Turku University Central Hospital, PL 52, FIN-20521 Turku, Finland

CACorresponding Author:

Received 4 December 2003; accepted 24 December 2003

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.