The serotonergic system is widely implicated in affect regulation, and a common target for psychopharmacological interventions. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the foremost drug class for treating depression, as well as anxiety, phobia and other affective disorders. However, the functional mechanisms determining SSRI efficacy remain elusive, hindering the targeted further development of serotonergic system interventions. Assays for longitudinal whole-brain interrogation of the serotonergic system are unavailable, yet such techniques are essential for identifying differential intervention effects across projection areas. We present a novel longitudinal opto-fMRI assay suitable for imaging longitudinal drug treatment effects on the mouse serotonergic system — within-subject and with sub-millimetre spatial resolution. We apply this assay to a longitudinal fluoxetine treatment, and document reliable segmentation of brain-wide treatment effects, including identification of a brainstem cluster with a highly significant longitudinal trajectory, constituting a novel neurophenotype for psychopharmacological interventions. We differentiate serotonergic neuron activation from projection area activation, and offer brain-wide fMRI evidence for the prominent autoinhibition downregulation theory of SSRI effects. Further, we show that given the sensitivity of the assay, SSRI treatment produces no persistent effects after treatment cessation in healthy subjects.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience