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Cortical serotonin 5-HT2A receptor binding and social communication in adults with Asperger's syndrome: an in vivo SPECT study.

OBJECTIVE: The cause of autistic spectrum disorder (i.e., autism and Asperger's syndrome) is unknown. The serotonergic (5-HT) system may be especially implicated. However, cortical 5-HT2A receptor density in adults with the disorder has not been examined, to the authors' knowledge. METHOD: The authors investigated cortical 5-HT2A receptor binding in eight adults with Asperger's syndrome and in 10 healthy comparison subjects with single photon emission computed tomography and the selective 5-HT2A receptor ligand 123I iodinated 4-amino-N-[1-[3-(4-fluorophenoxy)propyl]-4-methyl-4-piperidinyl]-5-iodo-2-methoxybenzamide (123I-5-I-R91150). RESULTS: People with Asperger's syndrome had a significant reduction in cortical 5-HT2A receptor binding in the total, anterior, and posterior cingulate; bilaterally in the frontal and superior temporal lobes; and in the left parietal lobe. Also, reduced receptor binding was significantly related to abnormal social communication. CONCLUSIONS: The authors' findings suggest that adults with Asperger's syndrome have abnormalities in cortical 5-HT2A receptor density and that this deficit may underlie some clinical symptoms.

Pubmed ID: 16648340


  • Murphy DG
  • Daly E
  • Schmitz N
  • Toal F
  • Murphy K
  • Curran S
  • Erlandsson K
  • Eersels J
  • Kerwin R
  • Ell P
  • Travis M


The American journal of psychiatry

Publication Data

May 1, 2006

Associated Grants

  • Agency: Medical Research Council, Id: G0400061

Mesh Terms

  • Adult
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Communication
  • Functional Laterality
  • Gyrus Cinguli
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Male
  • Parietal Lobe
  • Piperidines
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • Social Behavior
  • Temporal Lobe
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon