Effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors on interregional relation of serotonin transporter availability in major depression

G.M. James, P. Baldinger-Melich, C. Philippe, Georg Kranz, T. Vanicek, A. Hahn, G. Gryglewski, M. Hienert, M. Spies, T. Traub-Weidinger, M. Mitterhauser, W. Wadsak, M. Hacker, S. Kasper, R. Lanzenberger

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32 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 James, Baldinger-Melich, Philippe, Kranz, Vanicek, Hahn, Gryglewski, Hienert, Spies, Traub-Weidinger, Mitterhauser, Wadsak, Hacker, Kasper and Lanzenberger. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) modulate serotonergic neurotransmission by blocking reuptake of serotonin from the extracellular space. Up to now, it remains unclear how SSRIs achieve their antidepressant effect. However, task-based and resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging studies, have demonstrated connectivity changes between brain regions. Here, we use positron emission tomography (PET) to quantify SSRI's main target, the serotonin transporter (SERT), and assess treatment-induced molecular changes in the interregional relation of SERT binding potential (BPND). Nineteen out-patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and 19 healthy controls (HC) were included in this study. Patients underwent three PET measurements with the radioligand [11 C]DASB: (1) at baseline, (2) after a first SSRI dose; and (3) following at least 3 weeks of daily intake. Controls were measured once with PET. Correlation analyses were restricted to brain regions repeatedly implicated in MDD pathophysiology. After 3 weeks of daily SSRI administration a significant increase in SERT BPND correlations of anterior cingulate cortex and insula with the amygdala, midbrain, hippocampus, pallidum and putamen (p < 0.05; false discovery rate, FDR corrected) was revealed. No significant differences were found when comparing MDD patients and HC at baseline. These findings are in line with the clinical observation that treatment response to SSRIs is often achieved only after a latency of several weeks. The elevated associations in interregional SERT associations may be more closely connected to clinical outcomes than regional SERT occupancy measures and could reflect a change in the regional interaction of serotonergic neurotransmission during antidepressant treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Antidepressants
  • Connectivity
  • Depression
  • Network analysis
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Serotonin transporter
  • SSRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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