Serotonin transporter availability increases in patients recovering from a depressive episode

Jonas E Svensson, Cecilia Svanborg, Pontus Plavén-Sigray, Viktor Kaldo, Christer Halldin, Martin Schain, Johan Lundberg

16 Citationer (Scopus)


Molecular imaging studies have shown low cerebral concentration of serotonin transporter in patients suffering from depression, compared to healthy control subjects. Whether or not this difference also is present before disease onset and after remission (i.e. a trait), or only at the time of the depressive episode (i.e. a state) remains to be explored. We examined 17 patients with major depressive disorder with positron emission tomography using [ 11C]MADAM, a radioligand that binds to the serotonin transporter, before and after treatment with internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy. In all, 17 matched healthy control subjects were examined once. Cerebellum was used as reference to calculate the binding potential. Differences before and after treatment, as well as between patients and controls, were assessed in a composite cerebral region and in the median raphe nuclei. All image analyses and confirmatory statistical tests were preregistered. Depression severity decreased following treatment (p < 0.001). [ 11C]MADAM binding in patients increased in the composite region after treatment (p = 0.01), while no change was observed in the median raphe (p = 0.51). No significant difference between patients at baseline and healthy controls were observed in the composite region (p = 0.97) or the median raphe (p = 0.95). Our main finding was that patients suffering from a depressive episode show an overall increase in cerebral serotonin transporter availability as symptoms are alleviated. Our results suggest that previously reported cross-sectional molecular imaging findings of the serotonin transporter in depression most likely reflect the depressive state, rather than a permanent trait. The finding adds new information on the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder.

TidsskriftTranslational psychiatry
Udgave nummer1
StatusUdgivet - 10 maj 2021


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