• behavioural inhibition;
  • 5-HT;
  • loss;
  • pMRI;
  • reward


Serotonin (5-HT) has been implicated in the aetiology of a number of psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety and antisocial personality disorder. The development of these disorders may arise from alterations in underlying motivational and cognitive processes such as emotional recognition, reinforcement processing and central inhibitory control. This study aimed to localize where in the brain 5-HT modulates neuropsychological processes relevant to putative 5-HT disorders, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We examined the effect of the antidepressant mirtazapine on brain activations associated with behavioural inhibition and reinforcement processing in healthy subjects. Forty-five men were randomly allocated to receiving mirtazapine or placebo in a double-blind fashion. A Go/No-Go, Reward/No-Reward and Loss/No-loss task were performed during functional magnetic resonance imaging using a 1.5 Tesla Philips Gyroscan scanner. Blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) responses were analysed using SPM2. Task activations were largely consistent with previous findings. Mirtazapine modulated brain activations in the Go/No-Go and Reward/No-Reward task. During behavioural inhibition, enhanced activations were observed in the right orbitofrontal cortex (BA47). Increased activations in bilateral parietal cortex were found during the Reward task while no significant interaction was observed in the Loss task. Our results support the suggestion of an important role of serotonin in modulating basic processes involved in psychiatric disorders. Combining drug challenge with fMRI (pharmacoMRI; pMRI) is a promising tool for investigating these processes in healthy as well as patient groups.