Single photon emission computed tomography of the brain with Tc-99m HMPAO during sumatriptan challenge in obsessive-compulsive disorder: Investigating the functional role of the serotonin auto-receptor

Dan J. Stein, Barend Van Heerden, Charmaine J. Wessels, Jeanine Van Kradenburg, James Warwick, Herman J. Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations

Abstract

1. Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may be acutely exacerbated by administration of certain serotonin agonists Exacerbation of OCD symptoms by sumatriptan, a 5HT(1D) agonist (Zohar, 1993), is consistent with pre-clinical data suggesting that the serotonin auto-receptor plays an important role in this disorder (El Mansari et al, 1995). 2. In order to investigate the functional role of the serotonin auto-receptor in OCD, the authors undertook single photon emission computed tomography in OCD patients after administration of sumatriptan and placebo. The authors hypothesized that, as in the case of m-chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP) challenge (Hollander et al, 1995), exacerbation of OCD symptoms would be accompanied by increased cortical metabolism and thus blood flow, and more specifically by increased activity in the orbitofrontal-striatal circuit. They also expected, that as in the case of mCPP challenge (Hollander et al, 1993), exacerbation of OCD symptoms would be associated with a relatively poor response to subsequent treatment with serotonin specific reuptake inhibitors. 3. Sumatriptan (100mg orally) and placebo were administered on separate days to 14 patients who met DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for OCD, using a randomized double-blind design. After 90 minutes, patients were injected with Tc-99m HMPAO and underwent single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) of the brain. Activity in regions of interest was calculated, and compared using repeated measures analysis of variance. Patients were subsequently treated with a serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). 4. Behavioral response to sumatriptan was heterogenous, with 4 patients showing acute exacerbation, and 4 patients demonstrating a decrease in symptoms. On sumatriptan challenge, there was a significant association between symptom exacerbation and decreased activity in frontal areas. There was an association between decreased activity in an inferior frontal area with worse response to treatment, and also patients with symptom exacerbation after sumatriptan had poorer response to SSRI treatment. 5. Heterogeneity of behavioral response to sumatriptan in OCD is consistent with previous studies demonstrating conflicting and heterogenous behavioral responses to serotonergic challenges (Hollander et al, 1992), and with underlying heterogeneity in the neurobiology of this disorder. 6. It may be hypothesized that increased frontal activity in some patients with OCD is itself a compensatory mechanism. In patients with such compensatory hyperactivity, administration of a serotonin auto-receptor agonist results in decreased frontal activity and exacerbation of OCD symptoms. These patients may also be less likely to respond to treatment with a SSRI. 7. Further work combining pharmacological challenge paradigms and functional imaging techniques in OCD may be helpful in elucidating the neurobiology of this complex disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1079-1099
Number of pages21
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Volume23
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • 5-HT(1D) autoreceptor
  • Corticostriatal circuits
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
  • Single photon emission computed tomography

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