Georg S Kranz

Medical University of Vienna, Wien, Vienna, Austria

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Publications (32)113.47 Total impact

  • Biological Psychiatry. 08/2014; 76(4):272–273.
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    ABSTRACT: The success of serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitors has lent support to the monoamine theory of major depressive disorder (MDD). This issue has been addressed in a number of molecular imaging studies by positron emission tomography or single-photon emission computed tomography of serotonin reuptake sites (5-HTT) in the brain of patients with MDD, with strikingly disparate conclusions. Our meta-analysis of the 18 such studies, totaling 364 MDD patients free from significant comorbidities or medication and 372 control subjects, revealed reductions in midbrain 5-HTT (Hedges' g=-0.49; 95% CI: (-0.84, -0.14)) and amygdala (Hedges' g=-0.50; 95% CI: (-0.78, -0.22)), which no individual study possessed sufficient power to detect. Only small effect sizes were found in other regions with high binding (thalamus: g=-0.24, striatum: g=-0.32, and brainstem g=-0.22), and no difference in the frontal or cingulate cortex. Age emerged as an important moderator of 5-HTT availability in MDD, with more severe reductions in striatal 5-HTT evident with greater age of the study populations (P<0.01). There was a strong relationship between severity of depression and 5-HTT reductions in the amygdala (P=0.01). Thus, molecular imaging findings indeed reveal widespread reductions of ∼10% in 5-HTT availability in MDD, which may predict altered spatial-temporal dynamics of serotonergic neurotransmission.Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism advance online publication, 7 May 2014; doi:10.1038/jcbfm.2014.82.
    Journal of cerebral blood flow and metabolism: official journal of the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism 05/2014; · 5.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The anticipation of favourable or unfavourable events is a key component in our daily life. However, the temporal dynamics of anticipation processes in relation to brain activation are still not fully understood. A modified version of the monetary incentive delay task was administered during separate functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG) sessions in the same 25 participants to assess anticipatory processes with a multi-modal neuroimaging set-up. During fMRI, gain and loss anticipation were both associated with heightened activation in ventral striatum and reward-related areas. EEG revealed most pronounced P300 amplitudes for gain anticipation, whereas CNV amplitudes distinguished neutral from gain and loss anticipation. Importantly, P300, but not CNV amplitudes, were correlated to neural activation in the ventral striatum for both gain and loss anticipation. Larger P300 amplitudes indicated higher ventral striatum blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response. Early stimulus evaluation processes indexed by EEG seem to be positively related to higher activation levels in the ventral striatum, indexed by fMRI, which are usually associated with reward processing. The current results, however, point towards a more general motivational mechanism processing salient stimuli during anticipation.
    NeuroImage 04/2014; · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Suffering from anhedonia, patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) exhibit alterations in several parts of the serotonergic neurotransmitter system, which are in turn involved in reward processing. However, previous investigations of the serotonin transporter (SERT) focused on regional differences with varying results depending on the clinical syndrome. Here, we aimed to describe the serotonergic system of MDD patients on a network level by evaluating SERT associations across brain regions. Twenty medication free patients with major depression and 20 healthy controls underwent positron emission tomography using the radioligand [(11) C]DASB. SERT binding potentials (BPND ) were quantified voxel-wise with the multilinear reference tissue model 2. In addition, SERT BPND was extracted from the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) as an indicator of midbrain serotonergic neurotransmission. Whole-brain linear regression analysis was applied to evaluate the association of DRN SERT bindings to those in projection areas, which was followed by ANCOVA to assess differences in interregional relationships between patients and controls. Although both groups showed widespread positive correlations, group differences were restricted to decreased SERT associations between the DRN and the ventral striatum (right and left respectively: t = 5.85, P < 0.05 corrected and t = 5.07, P < 0.1 corrected) when comparing MDD patients (R(2) = 0.11 and 0.24) to healthy subjects (R(2) = 0.72 and 0.66, P < 0.01 and 0.05 corrected). Adjusting for age and sex did not change these findings. This study indicates a disturbed regulation between key regions involved in reward processing via the SERT. Our interregional approach highlights the importance of evaluating pathophysiological alterations on a network level to gain complementary information in addition to regional investigations. Hum Brain Mapp, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Human Brain Mapping 01/2014; · 6.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Preclinical research points to a strong modulatory influence of gonadal hormones on the serotonin system. However, human data corroborating this association remains scarce. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of hormone replacement therapy on 5-HT1A receptor binding in postmenopausal women using positron emission tomography (PET) and the radioligand [carbonyl-11C]WAY-100635. In this randomized, double-blind, longitudinal study, 30 postmenopausal women underwent treatment with either a combination of oral 17β-estradiol valerate and micronized progesterone (group 1, n = 10), oral 17β-estradiol valerate (group 2, n = 10), or placebo (group 3, n = 10). Two PET measurements were performed, one the day before treatment start and the second after at least eight weeks of treatment. Plasma levels of estradiol (E2), progesterone (P4), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) were collected prior to PET measurements. As expected, hormone replacement therapy led to a significant increase in E2 and P4 plasma levels in group 1 and to a significant increase in E2 levels in group 2. The 5-HT1A receptor binding did not change significantly after estrogen, combined estrogen/progesterone treatment or placebo in any of the investigated brain regions. There were no significant correlations between changes in E2 or P4 values and changes in 5-HT1A receptor binding. Although we were not able to confirm effects of gonadal hormone treatment on 5-HT1A receptor binding, our data do not preclude associations between sex steroid levels and serotonin, the neurotransmitter implicated most strongly in the pathogenesis of affective and anxiety disorders.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 01/2014; · 5.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Preclinical research and clinical experience point to a modulation of 5-HT1A receptor expression by gonadal steroid hormones. We examined the effect of estradiol, progesterone and DHEAS on serotonin neurotransmission in 16 premenopausal and 28 postmenopausal women, differentiating by reproductive status. By means of positron emission tomography and the radiotracer [carbonyl-11C]WAY-100635, the 5-HT1A receptor binding potential (BP) was quantified in 45 brain regions of interest. Median BP was used as a surrogate marker to estimate the whole brain effect of the steroid hormones on receptor binding. We found a strong negative effect of serum progesterone and DHEAS levels on 5-HT1A receptor binding in postmenopausal women both in the Median BP and on a regional level. Furthermore, there was a non-linear, U-shaped relationship between DHEAS levels and 5-HT1A receptor binding in the pooled sample. Presynaptic 5-HT1A receptor BP in the raphe nuclei was significantly explained in a non-linear way by both progesterone and DHEAS in the pooled sample. Our study confirms in humans a preclinically suggested relation of the steroid hormones progesterone and DHEAS to 5-HT1A receptor binding. We show differential effects of the hormones with regard to reproductive hormonal status. Non-linear, U-shaped relationships between hormone serum concentrations and serotonin neurotransmission might explain paradoxical effects of these hormones on mood.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 01/2014; · 5.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Blocking of the serotonin transporter (SERT) represents the initial mechanism of action of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which can be visualized due to the technical proceedings of SERT occupancy studies. When compared to the striatum, higher SERT occupancy in the midbrain and lower values in the thalamus were reported. This indicates that occupancy might be differently distributed throughout the brain, which is supported by preclinical findings indicating a regionally varying SERT activity and antidepressant drug concentration. The present study therefore aimed to investigate regional SERT occupancies with positron emission tomography and the radioligand [(11)C]DASB in 19 depressed patients after acute and prolonged intake of oral doses of either 10mg/day escitalopram or 20mg/day citalopram. Compared to the mean occupancy across cortical and subcortical regions, we detected increased SERT occupancies in regions commonly associated with antidepressant response, such as the subgenual cingulate, amygdala and raphe nuclei. When acute and prolonged drug intake was compared, SERT occupancies increased in subcortical areas that are known to be rich in SERT. Moreover, SERT occupancy in subcortical brain areas after prolonged intake of antidepressants was predicted by plasma drug levels. Similarly, baseline SERT binding potential seems to impact SERT occupancy, as regions rich in SERT showed greater binding reduction as well as higher residual binding. These findings suggest a region-specific distribution of SERT blockage by SSRIs and stress the postulated link between treatment response and SERT occupancy to certain brain regions such as the subgenual cingulate cortex.
    NeuroImage 10/2013; · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Preclinical studies have demonstrated that serotonin (5-HT) challenge changes neuronal circuitries and microarchitecture. However, evidence in human subjects is missing. Pharmacologic magnetic resonance imaging (phMRI) applying selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and high-resolution structural and functional brain assessment is able to demonstrate the impact of 5-HT challenge on neuronal network morphology and functional activity. To determine how SSRIs induce changes in gray matter and neuronal activity, we conducted a longitudinal study using citalopram and escitalopram. Seventeen healthy subjects completed a structural and functional phMRI study with randomized, cross-over, placebo-controlled, double-blind design. Significant gray matter increases were observed (amongst other regions) in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and the ventral precuneus after SSRI intake of 10days, while decreases were observed within the pre- and postcentral gyri (all P<0.05, family wise error [FWE] corrected). Furthermore, enhanced resting functional connectivity (rFC) within the ventral precuneus and PCC was associated with gray matter increases in the PCC (all FWE Pcorr<0.05). Corroborating these results, whole-brain connectivity density, measuring the brain's functional network hubs, was significantly increased after SSRI-intake in the ventral precuneus and PCC (all FWE Pcorr<0.05). Short-term administration of SSRIs changes gray matter structures, consistent with previous work reporting enhancement of neuroplasticity by serotonergic neurotransmission. Furthermore, increased gray matter in the PCC is associated with increased functional connectivity in one of the brain's metabolically most active regions. Our novel findings provide convergent evidence for dynamic alterations of brain structure and function associated with SSRI pharmacotherapy.
    NeuroImage 08/2013; · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alterations of the inhibitory serotonin-1A receptor (5-HT1A) constitute a solid finding in neuropsychiatric research, particularly in the field of mood and anxiety disorders. Manifold factors influencing the density of this receptor have been identified, e.g., steroid hormones, sunlight exposure and genetic variants of serotonin-related genes. Given the close interactions between serotonergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission, we investigated whether a common single-nucleotide-polymorphism of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene (VAL158MET or rs4680) coding for a key enzyme of the dopamine network that is associated with the pathogenesis of mood disorders and antidepressant treatment response, directly affects 5-HT1A receptor binding potential. Fifty-two healthy individuals (38 female, mean age ± standard deviation = 40.48 ± 14.87) were measured via positron emission tomography using the radioligand [carbonyl-(11)C]WAY-100635. Genotyping for rs4680 was performed using DNA isolated from whole blood with the MassARRAY platform of the software SEQUENOM(®). Whole brain voxel-wise ANOVA resulted in a main effect of genotype on 5-HT1A binding. Compared to A carriers (AA + AG) of rs4680, homozygote G subjects showed higher 5-HT1A binding potential in the posterior cingulate cortex (F (2,49) = 17.7, p = 0.05, FWE corrected), the orbitofrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, the insula, the amygdala and the hippocampus (voxel-level: p < 0.01 uncorrected, t > 2.4; cluster-level: p < 0.05 FWE corrected). In light of the frequently reported alterations of 5-HT1A binding in anxiety and mood disorders, this study proposes a potential implication of the COMT genotype, more specifically the VAL158MET polymorphism, via modulation of the serotonergic neurotransmission.
    Brain Structure and Function 08/2013; · 7.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Progressing from 3 Tesla to 7 Tesla functional MRI enables marked improvements of human brain imaging in vivo. Although direct comparisons demonstrated advantages concerning blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal response and spatial specificity, these mostly focused on single brain regions with rather simple tasks. Considering that physiological noise also increases with higher field strength, it is not entirely clear whether the advantages of 7T translate equally to the entire brain during tasks which elicit more complex neuronal processing. Therefore, we investigated the difference between 3T and 7T in response to transcutaneous electrical painful and non-painful stimulation in 22 healthy subjects. For painful stimuli vs. baseline, stronger activations were observed at 7T in several brain regions including the insula and supplementary motor area, but not the secondary somatosensory cortex (p<0.05 FWE-corrected). Contrasting painful vs. non-painful stimulation limited the differences between the field strengths to the periaqueductal gray (PAG, p<0.001 uncorrected) due to a similar signal increase at 7T for both the target and specific control condition in most brain regions. This regional specificity obtained for the PAG at higher field strengths was confirmed by an additional spatial normalization strategy optimized for the brainstem. Here, robust BOLD responses were obtained in the dorsal PAG at 7T (p<0.05 FWE-corrected), whereas at 3T activation was completely missing for the contrast against non-painful stimuli. To summarize, our findings support previously reported benefits obtained at ultra-high field strengths also for complex activation patterns elicited by painful electrical stimulation. However, this advantage depends on the region and even more on the contrast of interest. The greatest gain at 7T was observed within the small brainstem region of the PAG, where the increased field strength offered marked improvement for the localization of activation foci with high spatial specificity.
    NeuroImage 06/2013; · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The serotonergic system modulates brain functions that are considered to underlie affective states, emotion and cognition. Several lines of evidence point towards a strong lateralization of these mental processes, which indicates similar asymmetries in associated neurotransmitter systems. Here, our aim was to investigate a potential asymmetry of the serotonin transporter distribution using positron emission tomography and the radioligand [(11)C]DASB in vivo. As brain asymmetries may differ between sexes, we further aimed to compare serotonin transporter asymmetry between females, males and male-to-female (MtF) transsexuals whose brains are considered to be partly feminized. Voxel-wise analysis of serotonin transporter binding in all groups showed both strong left and rightward asymmetries in several cortical and subcortical structures including temporal and frontal cortices, anterior cingulate, hippocampus, caudate and thalamus. Further, male controls showed a rightward asymmetry in the midcingulate cortex, which was absent in females and MtF transsexuals. The present data support the notion of a lateralized serotonergic system, which is in line with previous findings of asymmetric serotonin-1A receptor distributions, extracellular serotonin concentrations, serotonin turnover and uptake. The absence of serotonin transporter asymmetry in the midcingulate in MtF transsexuals may be attributed to an absence of brain masculinization in this region.
    Brain Structure and Function 12/2012; · 7.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Animal models revealed that the serotonin-1A (5-HT(1A)) receptor modulates gray matter structure. However, there is a lack of evidence showing the relationship between 5-HT(1A) receptor concentration and gray matter in the human brain in vivo. Here, to demonstrate an association between the 5-HT(1A) receptor binding potential, an index for receptor concentration, and the local gray matter volume (GMV), an index for gray matter structure, we measured 35 healthy subjects with both positron emission tomography (PET) and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We found that regional heteroreceptor binding was positively associated with GMV in distinctive brain regions such as the hippocampi and the temporal cortices in both hemispheres (R(2) values ranged from 0.308 to 0.503, p<0.05 cluster-level FDR-corrected). Furthermore, autoreceptor binding in the midbrain raphe region was positively associated with GMV in forebrain projection sites (R(2)=0.656, p=0.001). We also observed a broad range between 5-HT(1A) receptor binding and GMV. Given the congruence of altered 5-HT(1A) receptor concentrations and GMV reduction in depression or Alzheimer's disease as reported by numerous studies, these results might provide new insights towards understanding the mechanisms behind GMV alterations observed in these brain disorders.
    NeuroImage 07/2012; 63(3):1091-8. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent mathematical models suggest restored serotonergic burst-firing to underlie the antidepressant effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), resulting from down-regulated serotonin transporters (SERT) in terminal regions. This mechanism possibly depends on the interregional balance between SERTs in the raphe nuclei and in terminal regions before treatment. To evaluate these hypotheses on a systems level in humans in vivo, we investigated SERT availability and occupancy longitudinally in patients with major depressive disorder using positron emission tomography (PET) and the radioligand [(11)C]DASB. Measurements were performed before and after a single oral dose, as well as after three weeks (mean 24.73±3.3days) of continuous oral treatment with either escitalopram (10mg/day) or citalopram (20mg/day). Data were analyzed using voxel-wise linear regression and ANOVA to evaluate SERT binding, occupancy and binding ratios (SERT binding of the entire brain compared to SERT binding in the dorsal and median raphe nuclei) in relation to treatment outcome. Regression analysis revealed that treatment response was predicted by pre-treatment SERT binding ratios, i.e., SERT binding in key regions of depression including bilateral habenula, amygdala-hippocampus complex and subgenual cingulate cortex in relation to SERT binding in the median but not dorsal raphe nucleus (p<0.05 FDR-corrected). Similar results were observed in the direct comparison of responders and non-responders. Our data provide a first proof-of-concept for recent modeling studies and further underlie the importance of the habenula and subgenual cingulate cortex in the etiology of and recovery from major depression. These findings may indicate a promising molecular predictor of treatment response and stimulate new treatment approaches based on regional differences in SERT binding.
    NeuroImage 07/2012; 63(2):874-81. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2012; 109(29):E2000. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Reflecting one's mental self is a fundamental process for evaluating the personal relevance of life events and for moral decision making and future envisioning. Although the corresponding network has been receiving growing attention, the driving neurochemical mechanisms of the default mode network (DMN) remain unknown. Here we combined positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate modulations of the DMN via serotonin-1A receptors (5-HT(1A)), separated for 5-HT autoinhibition (dorsal raphe nucleus) and local inhibition (heteroreceptors in projection areas). Using two independent approaches, regional 5-HT(1A) binding consistently predicted DMN activity in the retrosplenial cortex for resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and the Tower of London task. On the other hand, both local and autoinhibitory 5-HT(1A) binding inversely modulated the posterior cingulate cortex, the strongest hub in the resting human brain. In the frontal part of the DMN, a negative association was found between the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex and local 5-HT(1A) inhibition. Our results indicate a modulation of key areas involved in self-referential processing by serotonergic neurotransmission, whereas variations in 5-HT(1A) binding explained a considerable amount of the individual variability in the DMN. Moreover, the brain regions associated with distinct introspective functions seem to be specifically regulated by the different 5-HT(1A) binding sites. Together with previously reported modulations of dopamine and GABA, this regional specialization suggests complex interactions of several neurotransmitters driving the default mode network.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2012; 109(7):2619-24. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hormonal fluctuations during the perimenopausal transition lead to physical discomfort but are also frequently accompanied by mood swings, depressive symptoms, anxiety and sleeping disorders. The important role of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders and major depression is unquestioned, but only little is known about the influence of sex hormones on the serotonergic system. This review provides an overview of potential risk factors for the occurrence of affective disorders in the menopausal transition and discusses possible therapeutic options. Current research findings from longitudinal studies testing the efficacy of hormone replacement therapy and antidepressants with effects on the serotonergic neurotransmission on physical and mental discomforts during menopause are presented. Furthermore, studies using positron emission tomography and genetic methods that explore the effects of sex steroids on different components of the serotonergic system are shown. The interactions between estrogen, progesterone and the serotonergic system are described, and possible neurobiological and endocrinological mechanisms underlying depressive symptoms in the perimenopause are elucidated.
    Der Nervenarzt 02/2012; · 0.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has become the primary non-invasive method for investigating the human brain function. With an increasing number of ultra-high field MR systems worldwide possibilities of higher spatial and temporal resolution in combination with increased sensitivity and specificity are expected to advance detailed imaging of distinct cortical brain areas and subcortical structures. One target region of particular importance to applications in psychiatry and psychology is the amygdala. However, ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging of these ventral brain regions is a challenging endeavor that requires particular methodological considerations. Ventral brain areas are particularly prone to signal losses arising from strong magnetic field inhomogeneities along susceptibility borders. In addition, physiological artifacts from respiration and cardiac action cause considerable fluctuations in the MR signal. Here we show that, despite these challenges, fMRI data from the amygdala may be obtained with high temporal and spatial resolution combined with increased signal-to-noise ratio. Maps of neural activation during a facial emotion discrimination paradigm at 7T are presented and clearly show the gain in percental signal change compared to 3T results, demonstrating the potential benefits of ultra-high field functional MR imaging also in ventral brain areas.
    European journal of radiology 12/2011; · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Progesterone (P) is thought to influence mood and affective states. Alterations of the inhibitory serotonin-1A (5-HT(1A)) receptor distribution are associated with depression and anxiety. This study evaluates the influence of plasma P levels on the 5-HT(1A) receptor binding in healthy male subjects. Molecular neuroimaging of the 5-HT(1A) receptor distribution using positron emission tomography and hormone assays for total plasma P and cortisol were done in a sample of 18 healthy men. Plasma P levels explained up to 65% of the variability in 5-HT(1A) receptor binding in limbic regions including the amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex and retrosplenial cortex. When controlling for cortisol in the model, there was an expected decline in explained variances of 5-HT(1A) binding attributed to P. The results of this study provide further support for the effect of P on 5-HT(1A) receptor expression and raise the possibility that P mediates the vulnerability to mood disorders by affecting the serotonergic system.
    Neuroendocrinology 05/2011; 94(1):84-8. · 3.54 Impact Factor
  • European Psychiatry - EUR PSYCHIAT. 01/2011; 26:929-929.