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Neuroimage. 2009 Jul 15;46(4):1091-104. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.03.026. Epub 2009 Mar 20.

Reward circuitry is perturbed in the absence of the serotonin transporter.

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Biological Imaging Center, Beckman Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


The serotonin transporter (SERT) modulates the entire serotonergic system in the brain and influences both the dopaminergic and norepinephrinergic systems. These three systems are intimately involved in normal physiological functioning of the brain and implicated in numerous pathological conditions. Here we use high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy to elucidate the effects of disruption of the serotonin transporter in an animal model system: the SERT knock-out mouse. Employing manganese-enhanced MRI, we injected Mn(2+) into the prefrontal cortex and obtained 3D MR images at specific time points in cohorts of SERT and normal mice. Statistical analysis of co-registered datasets demonstrated that active circuitry originating in the prefrontal cortex in the SERT knock-out is dramatically altered, with a bias towards more posterior areas (substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, and Raphé nuclei) directly involved in the reward circuit. Injection site and tracing were confirmed with traditional track tracers by optical microscopy. In contrast, metabolite levels were essentially normal in the SERT knock-out by in vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy and little or no anatomical differences between SERT knock-out and normal mice were detected by MRI. These findings point to modulation of the limbic cortical-ventral striatopallidal by disruption of SERT function. Thus, molecular disruptions of SERT that produce behavioral changes also alter the functional anatomy of the reward circuitry in which all the monoamine systems are involved.

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