Send to

Choose Destination
Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2012 Jun;22(6):419-23. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2011.11.002. Epub 2012 Jan 17.

Perinatal effects on in vivo measures of human brain serotonin synthesis in adulthood: a 27-year longitudinal study.

Author information

Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


There is an increasing evidence that prenatal and early postnatal stressors have life long impacts on physical and mental health problems. Animal studies have shown that this could include enduring changes to brain serotonin neurotransmission. In the present study, we tested whether perinatal adversity in humans has a long-term impact on brain serotonin neurotransmission in adulthood. Twenty-six healthy males, recruited from a 27-year longitudinal study, underwent a positron emission tomography scan with the tracer alpha-[¹¹C]methyl-L-tryptophan (¹¹C-AMT), as an index of serotonin synthesis capacity. The trapping constant is taken as a proxy for the regional 5-HT synthesis. Birth complications, especially a delivery where the fetus showed signs of physiological distress, predicted lower ¹¹C-AMT trapping in the hippocampus and medial orbitofrontal cortex. Lower ¹¹C-AMT trapping in the medial orbitofrontal cortex was also predicted by maternal smoking and lower birth weight. There were no effects of childhood or recent adversity. This is the first human study reporting associations between perinatal adversity and adult ¹¹C-AMT trapping in the hippocampus and medial orbitofrontal cortex. The associations suggest that limbic serotonin pathways may be particularly vulnerable to environmental challenges during the period when they undergo the most prominent neurodevelopmental changes. In combination with other risk factors, perinatal stressors may contribute to increased vulnerability for psychiatric disorders in which serotonin plays a major role.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center