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Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Jan 15;65(2):175-80. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.08.034. Epub 2008 Oct 29.

Positron emission tomography imaging of the serotonin transporter and 5-HT(1A) receptor in alcohol dependence.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032, USA. dm437@columbia.edu



Rodent models as well as studies in humans have suggested alterations in serotonin (5-HT) innervation and transmission in early-onset genetically determined or type II alcoholism. This study examines two indices of serotonergic transmission, 5-HT transporter levels and 5-HT(1A) availability, in vivo, in type II alcoholism. This is the first report of combined tracers for pre- and postsynaptic serotonergic transmission in the same alcoholic subjects and the first study of 5-HT(1A) receptors in alcoholism.


Fourteen alcohol-dependent subjects were scanned (11 with both tracers, 1 with [(11)C]DASB only, and two with [(11)C]WAY100635 only). Twelve healthy control subjects (HC) subjects were scanned with [(11)C]DASB, and another 13 were scanned with [(11)C]WAY100635. Binding potential (BP(p), mL/cm(3)) and the specific to nonspecific partition coefficient (BP(ND), unitless) were derived for both tracers using a two-tissue compartment model and compared with control subjects across different brain regions. Relationships to severity of alcoholism were assessed.


No significant differences were observed in regional BP(p) or BP(ND) between patients and control subjects in any of the regions examined. No significant relationships were observed between regional 5-HT transporter availability, 5-HT(1A) availability, and disease severity, with the exception of a significant negative correlation between 5-HT transporters and years of dependence in amygdala and insula.


This study did not find alterations in measures of 5-HT(1A) or 5-HT transporter levels in patients with type II alcoholism.

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