The development of functional brain nuclear medicine techniques and their application in the investigation of neuropsychiatric disorders, have contributed significantly in the illumination of the underlying pathophysiological processes of these disorders. Furthermore, Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) brain studies provide information in early diagnosis, differential diagnosis, development of new drugs, and monitoring the response to therapeutic management. SPECT and PET brain imaging require the use of radiopharmaceuticals that cross the intact Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). Such radiotracers have been used in regional Cerebral Blood Flow (rCBF) SPECT and PET imaging and brain metabolism imaging with PET; these are well established methods in the diagnosis and management of various cerebral vascular diseases (e.g. stroke, dementia, epilepsy). Advances in radiotracer chemistry have resulted in the development of molecular imaging which represents the molecular and cellular processes of neurochychiatric diseases. SPECT and PET molecular imaging has become available for the study of acetylcholinergic, dopaminergic and serotonergic systems, as well as for benzodiazepine and opioid receptors, with promising results. More studies are needed to validate the role of molecular imaging in the clinical practice of neuropsychiatric disorders.
Keywords: Radiopharmaceuticals, SPECT, PET, neurological, psychiatric, disorders
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