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Differential effect of a dopaminergic agonist on prefrontal function in traumatic brain injury patients.

S McDowell, J Whyte, M D'Esposito
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/121.6.1155 1155-1164 First published online: 1 June 1998

Summary

We examined the effects of low-dose bromocriptine, a D2 dopamine receptor agonist, on processes thought to be subserved by the prefrontal cortex, including working memory and executive function, in individuals with traumatic brain injury. A group of 24 subjects was tested using a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial, counterbalanced for order. Bromocriptine was found to improve performance on some tasks thought to be subserved by prefrontal function, but not others. Specifically, there was improvement in performance on clinical measures of executive function and in dual-task performance, but not measures that tap the ability to maintain information in working memory without significant executive demands. Also, on control tasks not thought to be dependent on the prefrontal cortex, no improvement on bromocriptine was noted. These results demonstrate a selective effect of bromocriptine on cognitive processes which involve executive control, and provide a foundation for potential therapies for patients with prefrontal damage causing dysexecutive syndromes.