The dopamine imbalance hypothesis of fatigue in MS and other neurogical disorders

“Fatigue is one of the most pervasive symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), and has engen- dered hundreds of investigations on the topic. While there is a growing literature using various methods to study fatigue, a unified theory of fatigue in MS is yet to emerge. In the current review, we synthesize findings from neuroimaging, pharmacological, neu- ropsychological, and immunological studies of fatigue in MS, which point to a specific hypothesis of fatigue in MS: the dopamine imbalance hypothesis. The communication between the striatum and prefrontal cortex is reliant on dopamine, a modulatory neu- rotransmitter. Neuroimaging findings suggest that fatigue results from the disruption of communication between these regions. Supporting the dopamine imbalance hypothesis, structural and functional neuroimaging studies show abnormalities in the frontal and striatal regions that are heavily innervated by dopamine neurons. Further, dopaminergic psychos- timulant medication has been shown to alleviate fatigue in individuals with traumatic brain injury, chronic fatigue syndrome, and in cancer patients, also indicating that dopamine might play an important role in fatigue perception. This paper reviews the structural and functional neuroimaging evidence as well as pharmacological studies that suggest that dopamine plays a critical role in the phenomenon of fatigue. We conclude with how specific aspects of the dopamine imbalance hypothesis can be tested in future. […]”



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