Brain serotonin 2A receptor binding: relations to body mass index, tobacco and alcohol use

Neuroimage. 2009 May 15;46(1):23-30. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.01.050. Epub 2009 Feb 5.


Manipulations of the serotonin levels in the brain can affect impulsive behavior and influence our reactivity to conditioned reinforcers. Eating, tobacco smoking, and alcohol consumption are reinforcers that are influenced by serotonergic neurotransmission; serotonergic hypofunction leads to increased food and alcohol intake, and conversely, stimulation of the serotonergic system induces weight reduction and decreased food/alcohol intake as well as tobacco smoking. To investigate whether body weight, alcohol intake and tobacco smoking were related to the regulation of the cerebral serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT(2A)) in humans, we tested in 136 healthy human subjects if body mass index (BMI), degree of alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking was associated to the cerebral in vivo 5-HT(2A) receptor binding as measured with (18)F-altanserin PET. The subjects' BMI's ranged from 18.4 to 42.8 (25.2+/-4.3) kg/m(2). Cerebral cortex 5-HT(2A) binding was significantly positively correlated to BMI, whereas no association between cortical 5-HT(2A) receptor binding and alcohol or tobacco use was detected. We suggest that our observation is driven by a lower central 5-HT level in overweight people, leading both to increased food intake and to a compensatory upregulation of cerebral 5-HT(2A) receptor density.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Impulsive Behavior / diagnostic imaging
  • Impulsive Behavior / genetics
  • Impulsive Behavior / metabolism
  • Male
  • Obesity / diagnostic imaging
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / genetics
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / metabolism*
  • Smoking / genetics
  • Smoking / metabolism*


  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A