European Journal of Nuclear Medicine vol:28 issue:2 pages:175-182
Studies of serotonin metabolites in body fluids in attempted suicide patients and of post-mortem brain tissue of suicide victims have demonstrated the involvement of the serotonergic neurotransmission system in the pathogenesis of suicidal behaviour. Recently developed neuroimaging techniques offer the unique possibility of investigating in vivo the functional characteristics of this system. In this study the 5-HT2a receptor population of patients who had recently attempted suicide was studied by means of the highly specific radio-iodinated 5-MT2a receptor antagonist 4-amino-N-[1-[3-(4-fluorophenoxy) propyl] -4-methyl-4-piperidinyl] -5-iodo-2-methoxybenzamide or I-123-5-I-R91150. Nine patients who had recently (1-7 days) attempted suicide and 12 age-matched healthy controls received an intravenous injection of 185 MBq I-123-5-I-R91150 and were scanned with high-resolution brain single-photon emission tomography (SPET), Stereotactic realigned images were analysed semi-quantitatively using predefined volumes of interest. Serotonin binding capacity was expressed as the ratio of specific to non-specific activity. The cerebellum was used as a measure of non-specific activity. An age-dependent 5-HT2a binding index was found, in agreement with previous literature, Deliberate self-harm patients had a significantly reduced mean frontal binding index after correction for age (P=0.002) when compared with controls. The reduction was more pronounced among deliberate self-injury patients (DSI) (P<0.001) than among deliberate self-poisoning patients (DSP). Frontal binding index was significantly lower in DSI patients than in DSP suicide attempters (P<0.001). It is concluded that brain SPET of the 5-MT2a serotonin receptor system in attempted suicide patients who are free of drugs influencing the serotonergic system shows in vive evidence of a decreased frontal binding index of the 5-HT2a receptor, indicating a decrease in the number and/or in the binding affinity of 5-MT2a receptors.