Interindividual variability and lateralization of μ-opioid receptors in the human brain: Individual differences in the μ-opioid receptor system

Tatu Kantonen*, Tomi Karjalainen, Janne Isojärvi, Pirjo Nuutila, Jouni Tuisku, Juha Rinne, Jarmo Hietala, Valtteri Kaasinen, Kari Kalliokoski, Harry Scheinin, Jussi Hirvonen, Aki Vehtari, Lauri Nummenmaa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Alterations in the brain's μ-opioid receptor (MOR) system have been associated with several neuropsychiatric disorders. Central MOR availability also varies considerably in healthy individuals. Multiple epidemiological factors have been proposed to influence the MOR system, but due to small sample sizes the magnitude of their influence remains inconclusive. We compiled [11C]carfentanil positron emission tomography scans from 204 individuals with no neurologic or psychiatric disorders, and estimated the effects of sex, age, body mass index (BMI) and smoking on [11C]carfentanil binding potential using between-subject regression analysis. We also examined hemispheric differences in MOR availability. Older age was associated with increase in MOR availability in frontotemporal areas but decrease in amygdala, thalamus, and nucleus accumbens. The age-dependent increase was stronger in males. MOR availability was globally lowered in smokers but independent of BMI. Finally, MOR availability was higher in the right versus the left hemisphere. The presently observed variation in MOR availability may explain why some individuals are prone to develop MOR-linked pathological states, such as chronic pain or psychiatric disorders. Lateralized MOR system may reflect hemispheric work specialization in central emotion and pain processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116922
Number of pages8
JournalNeuroImage
Volume217
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Ageing
  • Brain lateralization
  • Endogenous opioids
  • Positron emission tomography
  • [C]carfentanil
  • μ-Opioid receptors

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