Association of central serotonin transporter availability and body mass index in healthy Europeans

Swen Hesse, Elsmarieke van de Giessen, Franziska Zientek, David Petroff, Karsten Winter, John C. Dickson, Livia Tossici-Bolt, Terez Sera, Susanne Asenbaum, Jacques Darcourt, Umit O. Akdemir, Gitte M. Knudsen, Flavio Nobili, Marco Pagani, Thierry Vander Borght, Koen Van Laere, Andrea Varrone, Klaus Tatsch, Osama Sabri, Jan Booij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Serotonin-mediated mechanisms, in particular via the serotonin transporter (SERT), are thought to have an effect on food intake and play an important role in the pathophysiology of obesity. However, imaging studies that examined the correlation between body mass index (BMI) and SERT are sparse and provided contradictory results. The aim of this study was to further test the association between SERT and BMI in a large cohort of healthy subjects. Methods: 127 subjects of the ENC DAT database (58 females, age 52±18 years, range 20-83, BMI 25.2±3.8kg/m2, range 18.2-41.1) were analysed using region-of-interest (ROI) and voxel-based approaches to calculate [123I]FP-CIT specific-to-nonspecific binding ratios (SBR) in the hypothalamus/thalamus and midbrain/brainstem as SERT-specific target regions. Results: In the voxel-based analysis, SERT availability and BMI were positively associated in the thalamus, but not in the midbrain. In the ROI-analysis, the interaction between gender and BMI showed a trend with higher correlation coefficient for men in the midbrain albeit not significant (0.033SBRm2/kg, p=0.1). Conclusions: The data are in agreement with previous PET findings of an altered central serotonergic tone depending on BMI, as a probable pathophysiologic mechanism in obesity, and should encourage further clinical studies in obesity targeting the serotonergic system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1240-1247
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014



  • 5-HTT
  • BMI
  • FP-CIT
  • Obesity
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Pharmacology (medical)

Cite this

Hesse, S., van de Giessen, E., Zientek, F., Petroff, D., Winter, K., Dickson, J. C., Tossici-Bolt, L., Sera, T., Asenbaum, S., Darcourt, J., Akdemir, U. O., Knudsen, G. M., Nobili, F., Pagani, M., Vander Borght, T., Van Laere, K., Varrone, A., Tatsch, K., Sabri, O., & Booij, J. (2014). Association of central serotonin transporter availability and body mass index in healthy Europeans. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 24(8), 1240-1247.