A number of novel ways of using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to visualise the action of drugs on animal and human brain (pharmacoMRI or phMRI) are becoming established tools in translational psychopharmacology. Using drugs with known pharmacology it is possible to investigate how neurotransmitter systems are involved in neural systems engaged by other processes, such as cognitive challenge (modulation phMRI) or to examine the acute effects of the drug itself in the brain (challenge phMRI). In this article we discuss the principles behind phMRI and review studies investigating the effect of serotonin (5-HT) manipulations. 5-HT modulation phMRI studies show the involvement of 5-HT in a broad range of neural processes ranging from motor function through 'cold' cognition, such as memory and response inhibition, to emotional processing. We highlight findings in brain areas that show some consistency or complementarity across studies, such as the ventrolateral orbitofrontal cortex where modulation by 5-HT is task-specific, and the amygdala in emotional processing where 5-HT is predominantly inhibitory. 5-HT challenge phMRI is promising but as yet few studies have been carried out. New ways of analysing phMRI data include connectivity analysis which holds the promise of going beyond identifying isolated areas of activation/modulation to understanding functional circuits and their neurochemistry. 5-HT phMRI now needs to be taken into patient populations and methods of investigating treatment effects need to be developed. If this is successful then phMRI will provide a genuinely exciting opportunity for the rapid development of better treatments for psychiatric conditions. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Functional MRI
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors