Serotonergic functioning in depressed abused children: Clinical and familial correlates

Joan Kaufman, Boris Birmaher, James Perel, Ronald E. Dahl, Stacy Stull, David Brent, Laura Trubnick, Mayadah Al-Shabbout, Neal D. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Background: The goal of this study was to examine serotonergic functioning and concomitant clinical and familial correlates in depressed abused children. Methods: L-5-Hydroxytryptophan (L-5-HTP) (0.8 mg/kg) was administered intravenously to 10 depressed abused (MDD-AB), 10 depressed nonabused (MDD-NA), and 10 normal control nonabused (NC-NA) children. The children in the two nonabused cohorts represent a small matched subset of children from a larger interlocking study of the psychobiology of depression. Blood samples for prolactin and cortisol were collected from 30 min before to 2.5 hours after L-5-HTP infusion. Results: The MDD-AB children secreted significantly more prolactin post-L-5-HTP than the children in the other two groups. There were no differences in baseline prolactin or any of the cortisol measures. Total prolactin post-L-5-HTP was significantly correlated with clinical ratings of aggressive behavior (rho=.48). In addition, children with a family history positive for suicide attempt (MDD-AB: n=7; MDD-NA: n=5; NC-NA: n=2) secreted significantly more prolactin post-L-5-HTP than children with no family history of suicide. Conclusions: Dysregulation in the serotonergic system in abused children appears to be related to both familial and experiential factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)973-981
Number of pages9
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Child abuse
  • Child depression
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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