Linkage Between the Midline Cortical Serotonergic System and Social Behavior Traits: Positron Emission Tomography Studies of Common Marmosets

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Serotonin is known to play an important role not only in regulating emotional behaviors, but also in the formation of social behavior traits. To determine the location and serotonin function of brain areas involved in social behavior traits, we tested serotonin transporter (SERT) binding and neural activity linked with the social behaviors of common marmosets with positron emission tomography using [11C]-3-amino-4-(2-dimetylaminomethyl-phenylsulfanyl)-benzonitrile and [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose, respectively. Factor analysis of behavioral measures during a direct encounter between unfamiliar adult males identified three classes of social behavioral traits: (1) aggressive, (2) anxious, and (3) unfriendly (opposite of friendly). Voxel-based analysis revealed a significant association between SERT binding with the social behavioral traits in the midline cortical subregions. Aggressive and friendly traits are localized to the posterior cingulate cortex, and the anxious trait is localized to the anterior cingulate cortex. In addition, neural activity and functional connectivity of the posterior and anterior cingulate cortices appear to be altered depending on the social situation. These results suggest that the midline cortical serotonergic system is crucial in social behavior traits and its subregions are functionally segregated in socio-emotional processing.

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