The present study assesses the changes of dopamine levels in the basal ganglia (BG) of rabbit brain during heatstroke with or without hypothermia therapy. The dopamine levels were determined by using 6(F18) fluoro-L-dopa (FDOPA) positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Heatstroke was induced by exposing the anesthetized rabbits to a high blanket temperature (T(blanket)) of 45 degrees C. Hypothermia therapy was accomplished by decreasing T(blanket) from 45 to 16 degrees C. Regions-of-interest were carefully selected on the BG and cerebellum (C). The uptake ratio of FDOPA was defined as the mean counts per pixel from BG divided by the mean counts from C. BG/C ratios represent the dopamine levels of BG. The results showed that the values of mean arterial pressure (MAP) in heatstroke rabbits without hypothermia therapy were significantly lower than those in normothermic controls. However, BG/C FDOPA ratios were greater. Both the arterial hypotension and the increased BG/C FDOPA ratios observed during heatstroke were all reduced after hypothermia therapy. Our data demonstrate that the dopamine overload visualized in the BG of rabbit brain during heatstroke can be suppressed by hypothermia therapy.