Memory Encoding and Dopamine in the Aging Brain: A Psychopharmacological Neuroimaging Study

A. M. Morcom, E. T. Bullmore, F. A. Huppert, B. Lennox, A. Praseedom, H. Linnington, P. C. Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Normal aging brings with it changes in dopaminergic and memory functions. However, little is known about how these 2 changes are related. In this study, we identify a link between dopamine, episodic memory networks, and aging, using pharmacological functional magnetic resonance imaging. Young and older adults received a D2-like agonist (Bromocriptine, 1.25 mg), a D2-like antagonist (Sulpiride, 400 mg), and Placebo, in a double-blind crossover procedure. We observed group differences, during memory encoding, in medial temporal, frontal, and striatal regions and moreover, these regions were differentially sensitive across groups to dopaminergic perturbation. These findings suggest that brain systems underlying memory show age-related changes and that dopaminergic function may be key in understanding these changes. That these changes have behavioral consequences was suggested by the observation that drug modulations were most pronounced in older subjects with poorer recognition memory. Our findings provide direct evidence linking ageing, memory, and dopaminergic change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-757
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • aging
  • dopamine
  • encoding
  • fMRI
  • memory


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