The relationship between reward and punishment processing and the 5-HT1A receptor as shown by PET

Paul Faulkner, Sudhakar Selvaraj, Alex Pine, Oliver D Howes, Jonathan P Roiser

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RATIONALE: The serotonin (5-HT) system has been reported to be involved in decision-making. A key component of this neurotransmitter system is the 5-HT1A receptor, and research is beginning to show how this receptor can influence decision-making. However, this relationship has rarely been studied in humans.

OBJECTIVES: This study assessed whether individual variability in 5-HT1A availability correlates with decision-making in healthy volunteers.

METHODS: We measured regional availability of the 5-HT1A receptor in the hippocampal complex and striatum using positron emission tomography and correlated this with performance on two decision-making tasks measuring sensitivity to probability, rewards and punishments and temporal discounting, respectively.

RESULTS: No relationship between decision-making behaviour and 5-HT1A availability in the striatum was found. However, a positive correlation was detected between participants' 5-HT1A availability in the hippocampal complex and their sensitivity to the probability of winning. Furthermore, there was a negative correlation between the degree to which participants discounted future rewards and 5-HT1A availability in the hippocampal complex.

CONCLUSIONS: These data support a role for the 5-HT1A receptor in the aberrant decision-making that can occur in neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression.

© 2014, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2579-86
Number of pages8
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • Adult
  • Corpus Striatum
  • Decision Making
  • Delay Discounting
  • Female
  • Hippocampus
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Probability
  • Punishment
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A
  • Reward
  • Clinical Trial
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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