Dopamine and response selection: an Acute Phenylalanine/Tyrosine Depletion study

  • Ramdani Céline
  • Vidal Franck
  • Dagher Alain
  • Carbonnell Laurence
  • Hasbroucq Thierry

  • Dopamine
  • Supplementary motor areas
  • Simon task
  • Electroencephalography
  • Response selection
  • Acute phenylalanine/tyrosine depletion APTD


The role of dopaminergic system in decision-making is well documented, and evidence suggests that it could play a significant role in response selection processes. The N-40 is a fronto-central event-related potential, generated by the supplementary motor areas (SMAs) and a physiological index of response selection processes. The aim of the present study was to determine whether infraclinical effects of dopamine depletion on response selection processes could be evidenced via alterations of the N-40. We obtained a dopamine depletion in healthy volunteers with the acute phenylalanine and tyrosine depletion (APTD) method which consists in decreasing the availability of dopamine precursors. Subjects realized a Simon task in the APTD condition and in the control condition. When the stimulus was presented on the same side as the required response, the stimulus-response association was congruent and when the stimulus was presented on the opposite side of the required response, the stimulus-response association was incongruent. The N-40 was smaller for congruent associations than for incongruent associations. Moreover, the N-40 was sensitive to the level of dopaminergic activity with a decrease in APTD condition compared to control condition. This modulation of the N-40 by dopaminergic level could not be explained by a global decrease of cerebral electrogenesis, since negativities and positivities indexing the recruitment of the primary motor cortex (anatomically adjacent to the SMA) were unaffected by APTD. The specific sensitivity of N-40 to ATPD supports the model of Keeler et al. (Neuroscience 282:156–175, 2014) according to which the dopaminergic system is involved in response selection.