Brain serotonin transporter is associated with cognitive-affective biases in healthy individuals

Hum Brain Mapp. 2022 May 24. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25946. Online ahead of print.


Cognitive affective biases describe the tendency to process negative information or positive information over the other. These biases can be modulated by changing extracellular serotonin (5-HT) levels in the brain, for example, by pharmacologically blocking and downregulating the 5-HT transporter (5-HTT), which remediates negative affective bias. This suggests that higher levels of 5-HTT are linked to a priority of negative information over positive, but this link remains to be tested in vivo in healthy individuals. We, therefore, evaluated the association between 5-HTT levels, as measured with [11 C]DASB positron emission tomography (PET), and affective biases, hypothesising that higher 5-HTT levels are associated with a more negative bias. We included 98 healthy individuals with measures of [11 C]DASB binding potential (BPND ) and affective biases using The Emotional Faces Identification Task by subtracting the per cent hit rate for happy from that of sad faces (EFITAB ). We evaluated the association between [11 C]DASB BPND and EFITAB in a linear latent variable model, with the latent variable (5-HTTLV ) modelled from [11 C]DASB BPND in the fronto-striatal and fronto-limbic networks implicated in affective cognition. We observed an inverse association between 5-HTTLV and EFITAB (β = -8% EFITAB per unit 5-HTTLV , CI = -14% to -3%, p = .002). These findings show that higher 5-HTT levels are linked to a more negative bias in healthy individuals. High 5-HTT supposedly leads to high clearance of 5-HT, and thus, a negative bias could result from low extracellular 5-HT. Future studies must reveal if a similar inverse association exists in individuals with affective disorders.

PMID:35607850 | DOI:10.1002/hbm.25946

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