University of Oulu

Lauri Tuominen, Jouko Miettunen, Dara M Cannon, Wayne C Drevets, Vibe G Frokjaer, Jussi Hirvonen, Masanori Ichise, Peter S Jensen, Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen, Jacqueline M Klaver, Gitte M Knudsen, Akihiro Takano, Tetsuya Suhara, Jarmo Hietala, Neuroticism Associates with Cerebral in Vivo Serotonin Transporter Binding Differently in Males and Females, International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, Volume 20, Issue 12, December 2017, Pages 963–970,

Neuroticism associates with cerebral in vivo serotonin transporter binding differently in males and females

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Author: Tuominen, Lauri1,2; Miettunen, Jouko3,4; Cannon, Dara M.5;
Organizations: 1Turku PET Centre, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
2Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA
3Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Finland
4Medical Research Center (MRC) Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5Centre for Neuroimaging & Cognitive Genomics (NICOG), Clinical Neuroimaging Laboratory, NCBES Galway Neuroscience Centre, College of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
6Janssen Research & Development, LLC, of Johnson & Johnson, Titusville, NJ
7Center for Integrated Molecular Brain Imaging, Rigshospitalet, Denmark
8Department of Radiology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
9Department of Functional Brain Imaging Research, National Institute of Radiological Sciences, National Institute for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, Chiba, Japan
10IBS, Unit of Personality, Work and Health Psychology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
11Department of Psychology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
12Neurobiology Research Unit, Rigshospitalet, Denmark
13 Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
14Department of Functional Brain Imaging Research, National Institute of Radiological SciencesNational Institute for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, Chiba, Japan
15Department of Psychiatry, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Oxford University Press, 2017
Publish Date: 2019-11-08


Background: Neuroticism is a major risk factor for affective disorders. This personality trait has been hypothesized to associate with synaptic availability of the serotonin transporter, which critically controls serotonergic tone in the brain. However, earlier studies linking neuroticism and serotonin transporter have failed to produce converging findings. Because sex affects both the serotonergic system and the risk that neuroticism poses to the individual, sex may modify the association between neuroticism and serotonin transporter, but this question has not been investigated by previous studies.

Methods: Here, we combined data from 4 different positron emission tomography imaging centers to address whether neuroticism is related to serotonin transporter binding in vivo. The data set included serotonin transporter binding potential values from the thalamus and striatum and personality scores from 91 healthy males and 56 healthy females. We specifically tested if the association between neuroticism and serotonin transporter is different in females and males.

Results: We found that neuroticism and thalamic serotonin transporter binding potentials were associated in both males and females, but with opposite directionality. Higher neuroticism associated with higher serotonin transporter binding potential in males (standardized beta 0.292, P=.008), whereas in females, higher neuroticism associated with lower serotonin transporter binding potential (standardized beta −0.288, P=.014).

Conclusions: The finding is in agreement with recent studies showing that the serotonergic system is involved in affective disorders differently in males and females and suggests that contribution of thalamic serotonin transporter to the risk of affective disorders depends on sex.

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Series: International journal of neuropsychopharmacology
ISSN: 1461-1457
ISSN-E: 1469-5111
ISSN-L: 1461-1457
Volume: 20
Issue: 12
Pages: 963 - 970
DOI: 10.1093/ijnp/pyx071
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of CINP. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact