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The socio-economic status of communities predicts variation in brain serotonergic responsivity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 November 2004

STEPHEN B. MANUCK
Affiliation:
Behavioral Physiology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
MARIA E. BLEIL
Affiliation:
Behavioral Physiology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
KAREN L. PETERSEN
Affiliation:
Behavioral Physiology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
JANINE D. FLORY
Affiliation:
Behavioral Physiology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
J. JOHN MANN
Affiliation:
Department of Neuroscience, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY, USA
ROBERT E. FERRELL
Affiliation:
Department of Human Genetics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
MATTHEW F. MULDOON
Affiliation:
Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Abstract

Background. We reported previously that the socio-economic status (SES) of individuals predicts variation in brain serotonergic responsivity, as assessed by neuropharmacological challenge in an adult community sample, and that this association is qualified by allelic variation in the serotonin transporter gene-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR). Here we examine whether serotonergic responsivity covaries similarly with the SES of communities, as indexed by US Census data in the same study sample.

Method. Community SES was defined by levels of income, economic disadvantage, housing costs, and educational attainment of census tracts in which 249 locally recruited study participants (54% male) resided. Serotonergic responsivity was assessed as the baseline-adjusted, peak plasma prolactin (Prl) concentration following acute administration of the serotonin-releasing agent, fenfluramine; tissue for DNA extraction and 5-HTTLPR genotyping was available on 131 participants.

Results. Subjects residing in census tracts of lower SES showed a blunted Prl response to fenfluramine (diminished serotonergic responsivity) relative to individuals living in more affluent neighborhoods. When adjusted for personal income and education, SES at the community level continued to predict fenfluramine-stimulated Prl responses and did so independently of 5-HTTLPR genotype.

Conclusions. Area-level indices of relative social and economic disadvantage covary with individual differences in brain serotonergic responsivity, and this association is, in part, independent of individually defined SES. These findings may be relevant to reported effects of low community SES on the prevalence of psychiatric disorders or behaviors associated with dysregulation of central serotonergic function, such as depression, impulsive aggression, and suicide.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2004 Cambridge University Press

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