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Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994 Apr;51(4):318-24.

Familial correlates of reduced central serotonergic system function in patients with personality disorders.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.



To test the hypothesis that evidence of reduced central serotonergic (5-HT) system function in probands with personality disorders is associated with an elevated morbid risk of psychopathological conditions putatively associated with 5-HT dysfunction in first-degree relatives of these probands.


Data were collected during a study of the 5-HT correlates of behavior in male patients with DSM-III personality disorders conducted at a Veterans Affairs medical center. Probands in this study were selected from those patients who had undergone both a fenfluramine hydrochloride challenge and a family history assessment. Axis II diagnosis were made according to DSM-III criteria after a structured interview of the proband, using the Structured Interview for Diagnosing Personality Disorders, given by two raters and a similar interview with a knowledgeable informant by another rater.


Reduced prolactin responses to the 5-HT releasing/uptake inhibiting agent fenfluramine was associated with an elevated morbid risk of impulsive personality disorder traits in the first-degree relatives of patients with a primary DSM-III diagnosis of a personality disorder. Quantitative scores on assessments of impulsive aggression in the probands were not correlated with an increased morbid risk for impulsive personality disorder traits. A trend in the same direction was noted for affective personality disorder traits and alcoholism.


These results suggest that a central 5-HT system abnormality in probands is associated with an increased risk of impulsive aggression in their first-degree relatives, and that assessment of central 5-HT system function in probands may be a more sensitive parameter for identification of this familial trait than the presence of impulsive aggressive behaviors in the proband.

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