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Curr Top Med Chem. 2006;6(18):2027-34.

PET and SPET molecular imaging: focus on serotonin system.

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  • 1IBFM-CNR, Department of Nuclear Medicine-University of Milan-Bicocca and Scientific Institute H San Raffaele, Milan, Italy.


Emission tomography techniques and, in particular, positron emission tomography (PET) enable the in vivo study of several physiological and neurochemical variables in human subjects using methods originally developed for quantitative autoradiography. In particular, PET allows one to evaluate in human subjects: (a) the effect of specific neurochemical challenges on regional brain function at rest or under activation; (b) the activity of neurotransmitters and the regional expression of specific molecular targets during pathology including their modulation by drug treatment; (c) the kinetics of drug disposition and activity directly in the target organ. This is of primary interest in the field of biological psychiatry and in psychoactive drugs development, where it is particularly difficult to reproduce human diseases using animal models in view of the peculiarity of this field and the large heterogeneity of each psychiatric illness also inside the same clinical definition. The aim of this paper is to review the principal strategies and the main results of the use of PET or single photon emission tomography (SPET) molecular imaging for the in vivo study of serotonin receptors and the main results obtained from their application in the study of major depression.

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