Seasonality-resilient individuals downregulate their cerebral 5-HT transporter binding in winter – A longitudinal combined <sup>11</sup>C-DASB and <sup>11</sup>C-SB207145 PET study
Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2018 Oct;28(10):1151-1160. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2018.06.004. Epub 2018 Aug 1.
We have recently shown that the emergence and severity of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms in the winter is associated with an increase in cerebral serotonin (5-HT) transporter (SERT) binding. Intriguingly, we also found that individuals resilient to SAD downregulate their cerebral SERT binding in the winter. In the present paper, we provide an analysis of the SERT- and 5-HT dynamics as indexed by 5-HT4 receptor (5-HT4R) binding related to successful stress coping. We included 46 11C-DASB positron emission tomography (PET) scans (N = 23, 13 women, age: 26 ± 6 years) and 14 11C-SB207145 PET scans (7 participants, 3 women, age: 25 ± 3 years) from 23 SAD-resilient Danes. Data was collected longitudinally in summer and winter. We found that compared to the summer, raphe nuclei and global brain SERT binding decreased significantly in the winter (praphe = 0.003 and pglobal = 0.003) and the two measures were positively correlated across seasons (summer: R2 = 0.33, p = .004, winter: R2 = 0.24, p = .018). A voxel-based analysis revealed prominent changes in SERT in clusters covering both angular gyri (0.0005 < pcorrected < 0.0016), prefrontal cortices (0.00087 < pcorrected < 0.0039) and the posterior temporal and adjacent occipital cortices (0.0001 < pcorrected < 0.0066). We did not observe changes in 5-HT4R binding, suggesting that 5-HT levels remained stable across seasons. We conclude that resilience to SAD is associated with a global downregulation of SERT levels in winter which serves to keep 5-HT levels across seasons.
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