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.

ABSTRACT

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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