serotonin1A receptor, PET, early-life stress, nonhuman primate, development


Background—Traumatic experiences in early childhood are associated with increased risk for developing mood and anxiety disorders later in life. Low serotonin1A receptor (5-HT1AR) density during development has been proposed as a trait-like characteristic leading to increased vulnerability of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders.

Methods—To assess the relationship between early-life stress and alterations in the serotonin system during development, we used positron emission tomography (PET) to measure in vivo 5- HT1AR density and apparent dissociation constant (KD app) in the brain of juvenile rhesus monkeys exposed to the early-life stress of peer-rearing.

Results—In general, 5-HT1AR density and KD app were decreased in peer-reared compared with control mother-reared animals. However, increase in receptor density was found in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex of peer-reared females. Conclusions—These findings suggest that exposure to an adverse early-life environment during infancy is associated with long-term alterations in the serotonin system and, support previous studies suggesting that reduced 5-HT1AR density during development may be a factor increasing vulnerability to stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders. Further, alterations in the serotonin systemappeared to be gender- and region-specific, providing a biological basis for the higher prevalence of affective disorders in women.

Original Publication Citation

Spinelli S, Chefer S, Carson RE, Jagoda E, Lang L, Heilig M, Barr CS, Suomi SJ, Higley JD, Stein EA. Effects of early-life stress on serotonin(1A) receptors in juvenile Rhesus monkeys measured by positron emission tomography. Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jun 15;67(12):1146-53. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.12.030. Epub 2010 Feb 20. PMID: 20172506; PMCID: PMC2882499.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Biol Psychiatry




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor

Included in

Psychology Commons