Implications of impulsive and affective symptoms for serotonin function in bulimia nervosa
Background. Bulimic, impulsive and depressive syndromes have all been associated with abnormalities in brain serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) mechanisms.
Methods. We had 26 bulimic women and 22 normal-eater women report impulsive, affective, self-destructive and bulimic symptoms, and then provide serial blood samples for measurement of: [3H]-paroxetine binding in platelets; and, prolactin (PRL) responses following oral meta-chlorophenyl-piperazine (m-CPP).
Results. Bulimic status was associated with markedly reduced density of paroxetine-binding sites, modest blunting of m-CPP stimulated PRL response, and greater nausea following m-CPP. Biological variables did not co-vary with most psychopathological or eating-symptom indices. However, there were inverse associations (in bulimic women only) between scores indicating impulsivity (largely ‘unreflectiveness’) and density of platelet 5-HT uptake sites.
Conclusions. Our observations link bulimia nervosa to altered 5-HT functioning, and suggest that there may be a relatively symptom-specific association between impulsivity and reduced 5-HT reuptake.
c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Howard Steiger, Eating Disorders Program, Douglas Hospital, 6875 LaSalle Boulevard, Verdun (Quebec) Canada H4H 1R3.