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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2003 Apr;167(1):72-8. Epub 2003 Mar 11.

5-HT(2A) receptor binding is reduced in drug-naive and unchanged in SSRI-responder depressed patients compared to healthy controls: a PET study.

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  • 1CNR Institute of Molecular Imaging and Physiology, Istituto Scientifico S. Raffaele, University of Milan-Bicocca, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.



The aim of the study was to investigate differences in 5-HT(2A) receptor binding between healthy volunteers and patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), either never treated before with antidepressants (drug-naive: DN) or responding to paroxetine treatment (drug-treated: DT).


Nineteen DN patients with MDD and 15 euthymic DT (paroxetine 4 weeks) patients were compared with a group of 20 healthy controls (C) with positron emission tomography (PET) using [(18)F]fluoroethylspiperone ([(18)F]FESP), a 5-HT(2A) and D(2) receptor antagonist. A "binding index" (BI) of [(18)F]FESP to cortical and basal ganglia regions was calculated as the ratio of the activity in these regions to that of cerebellum. Differences in BI between groups, i.e. C versus DN or DT, were assessed by ANOVA, with or without age as covariate (ANCOVA).


A significant reduction in BI ( P=0.003 ANOVA, P=0.001 ANCOVA) was found in DN patients in the frontal, occipital, temporal and cingulate cortices, but not in the striatum. No significant differences emerged between C and DT patients.


The reduction of [(18)F]FESP BI in cortical areas of DN depressed, but not of euthymic DT patients suggests an association between the occurrence of depressive symptoms and impairment of cortical 5-HT(2A) receptors. [(18)F]FESP cortical BI may represent a state marker of depression.

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