Background. Bulimic, impulsive and depressive syndromes have all been associated with
abnormalities in brain serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) mechanisms.
Methods. We had 26 bulimic women and 22 normal-eater women report impulsive, affective, self-destructive
and bulimic symptoms, and then provide serial blood samples for measurement of: [3H]-paroxetine
binding in platelets; and, prolactin (PRL) responses following oral meta-chlorophenyl-piperazine (m-CPP).
Results. Bulimic status was associated with markedly reduced density of paroxetine-binding sites,
modest blunting of m-CPP stimulated PRL response, and greater nausea following m-CPP.
Biological variables did not co-vary with most psychopathological or eating-symptom indices.
However, there were inverse associations (in bulimic women only) between scores indicating
impulsivity (largely ‘unreflectiveness’) and density of platelet 5-HT uptake sites.
Conclusions. Our observations link bulimia nervosa to altered 5-HT functioning, and suggest that
there may be a relatively symptom-specific association between impulsivity and reduced 5-HT