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Effects of tolcapone and bromocriptine on cognitive stability and flexibility.

  • Author(s): Cameron, Ian GM
  • Wallace, Deanna L
  • Al-Zughoul, Ahmad
  • Kayser, Andrew S
  • D'Esposito, Mark
  • et al.

RATIONALE:The prefrontal cortex (PFC) and basal ganglia (BG) have been associated with cognitive stability and cognitive flexibility, respectively. We hypothesized that increasing PFC dopamine tone by administering tolcapone (a catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitor) to human subjects should promote stability; conversely, increasing BG dopamine tone by administering bromocriptine (a D2 receptor agonist) should promote flexibility. OBJECTIVE:We assessed these hypotheses by administering tolcapone, bromocriptine, and a placebo to healthy subjects who performed a saccadic eye movement task requiring stability and flexibility. METHODS:We used a randomized, double-blind, within-subject design that was counterbalanced across drug administration sessions. In each session, subjects were cued to prepare for a pro-saccade (look towards a visual stimulus) or anti-saccade (look away) on every trial. On 60% of the trials, subjects were instructed to switch the response already in preparation. We hypothesized that flexibility would be required on switch trials, whereas stability would be required on non-switch trials. The primary measure of performance was efficiency (the percentage correct divided by reaction time for each trial type). RESULTS:Subjects were significantly less efficient across all trial types under tolcapone, and there were no significant effects of bromocriptine. After grouping subjects based on Val158Met COMT polymorphism, we found that Met/Met and Val/Met subjects (greater PFC dopamine) were less efficient compared to Val/Val subjects. CONCLUSIONS:Optimal behavior was based on obeying the environmental stimuli, and we found reduced efficiency with greater PFC dopamine tone. We suggest that greater PFC dopamine interfered with the ability to flexibly follow the environment.

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