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Am J Psychiatry. 2001 Jan;158(1):78-85.

The effect of paroxetine on 5-HT(2A) receptors in depression: an [(18)F]setoperone PET imaging study.

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  • 1Clarke Division, Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Department ofPsychiatry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



In the cortex of animals, serotonin (5-HT) levels increase after several weeks of treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Studies using an intrasubject design to examine the effects of SSRI treatment on 5-HT(2A) receptors in the cortex of drug-free depressed patients are needed. In theory, agonist stimulation of 5-HT(2A) receptors could be relevant to SSRI treatment by promoting neuronal growth and survival as well as direct elevation of mood. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of 6 weeks of paroxetine treatment on 5-HT(2A) receptors in depressed patients.


After a medication-free period of at least 3 months, 19 depressed patients were treated for 6 weeks with paroxetine, 20 mg/day. The authors used [(18)F]setoperone and positron emission tomography to assess 5-HT(2A) receptor binding potential in the patients before and after treatment and in 19 age-matched healthy subjects.


5-HT(2A) binding potential declined with age in all cortical regions in the depressed and healthy subjects. There was a significant interaction between age and treatment effect on 5-HT(2A) binding potential in all cortical regions. Subjects aged 20 to 30 years had a 10% decrease in 5-HT(2A) binding potential after treatment, whereas subjects aged 30 to 40 had no change. No regional differences in 5-HT(2A) binding potential between depressed and healthy subjects were found.


5-HT(2A) receptors down-regulate in young depressed subjects after treatment with paroxetine, but this down-regulation attenuates with age. This suggests that over 6 weeks paroxetine treatment increases 5-HT agonism on 5-HT(2A) receptors in the cortex of young patients with depression.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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