Background: Perfusion functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to investigate the effect of genetic variation of the human serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene (5-HTTLPR, SLC6A4) on resting brain function of healthy individuals.
Methods: Twenty-six healthy subjects, half homozygous for the 5-HTTLPR short allele (s/s group) and half homozygous for the long allele (l/l group), underwent perfusion functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging during a resting state. The two genotype groups had no psychiatric illness and were similar in age, gender, and personality scores.
Results: Compared with the l/l group, the s/s group showed significantly increased resting cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the amygdala and decreased CBF in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The effect of functional modulation in these regions by 5-HTTLPR genotype cannot be accounted for by variations in brain anatomy, personality, or self-reported mood.
Conclusions: The 5-HTTLPR genotype alters resting brain function in emotion-related regions in healthy individuals, including the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Such alterations suggest a broad role of the 5-HTT gene in brain function that may be associated with the genetic susceptibility for mood disorders such as depression.