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Pharmacopsychiatry. 1994 Jan;27(1):2-6.

PET studies of presynaptic monoamine metabolism in depressed patients and healthy volunteers.

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Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.


No deranged presynaptic monoamine metabolism in the brain has been directly demonstrated in mood disorders, in spite of the rich but indirect pharmacological evidence for a decreased efficacy of monoaminergic synaptic transmission in depression, especially as for serotonin. The availability of 11C-labelled 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and L-DOPA, the direct precursors in the synthetic pathways to serotonin and dopamine, has allowed positron emission tomographic (PET) studies in 8 healthy volunteers and 6 patients suffering from unipolar depression. Main results indicate (1) decreased uptake of [11C]5-HTP and [11C]L-DOPA over the blood-brain barrier in depression (which is not altered by dietary tryptophan depletion in healthy volunteers), and (2) an increased utilization of [11C]5-HTP (but not [11C]L-DOPA), in the lower region of the medial prefrontal cortex, mainly of the left side. This phenomenon presumably mirrors an increased synthesis of serotonin in this area and might represent a local compensatory increase in a situation of a general serotonergic hypometabolism. Analyses of interactions of both ligands between striatal and prefrontal areas suggest significantly stronger positive correlations in depression than in health, that could be interpreted as a less pronounced autonomy between brain regions in depression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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