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Genetic Variation in Serotonin Transporter Alters Resting Brain Function in Healthy Individuals

      Background

      Perfusion functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to investigate the effect of genetic variation of the human serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene (5-HTTLPR, SLC6A4) on resting brain function of healthy individuals.

      Methods

      Twenty-six healthy subjects, half homozygous for the 5-HTTLPR short allele (s/s group) and half homozygous for the long allele (l/l group), underwent perfusion functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging during a resting state. The two genotype groups had no psychiatric illness and were similar in age, gender, and personality scores.

      Results

      Compared with the l/l group, the s/s group showed significantly increased resting cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the amygdala and decreased CBF in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The effect of functional modulation in these regions by 5-HTTLPR genotype cannot be accounted for by variations in brain anatomy, personality, or self-reported mood.

      Conclusions

      The 5-HTTLPR genotype alters resting brain function in emotion-related regions in healthy individuals, including the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Such alterations suggest a broad role of the 5-HTT gene in brain function that may be associated with the genetic susceptibility for mood disorders such as depression.

      Key Words

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