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Biol Psychiatry. 2006 Jan 1;59(1):40-7. Epub 2005 Sep 1.

Sex differences in diencephalon serotonin transporter availability in major depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine and West Haven VA Connecticut Health Care System, CT 06516, USA.



Major depression is more prevalent in women than men. The present study evaluated if previous findings that demonstrated decreased 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) transporter availability in depressed patients would be confirmed in a larger sample and also evaluated sex differences.


Depressed (n = 32) and healthy subjects (n = 32), including 16 pairs of women and men, participated in an iodine-123-2 beta-carbomethoxy-3beta-(4-iodophenyltropane) ([(123)I]beta-CIT) single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Participants were administered [(123)I]beta-CIT (225.7 +/- 3.7 MBq) and imaged 23.0 +/- 1.6 hours later. Statistical analyses included analysis of variance and a regression analysis of the main and interactive effects of age, sex, and depression.


Overall, depressed patients demonstrated 12% lower diencephalon and no change in striatal or brainstem [(123)I]beta-CIT uptake. Significant age by sex, sex by depression, and age by sex by depression interactions were noted due to 22% lower diencephalon [(123)I]beta-CIT uptake in depressed women compared with less than a 1% decrease in depressed men.


As observed previously, diencephalon 5-HT transporter availability is decreased in depressed patients. However, the decrease appears to be sex-specific and age-dependent. These findings suggest that serotonergic mechanisms mediating depressed mood differ between men and women in an age-dependent manner and may explain why young women respond better to treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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