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September 1997

Neuroendocrine Response to Fenfluramine Challenge in BoysAssociations With Aggressive Behavior and Adverse Rearing

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Drs Pine, Wasserman, Miller, Fried, Greenhill, and Shaffer and Mr Davies), Analytic Neurochemistry (Mr Cooper), and Neuroscience (Dr Parsons), and the Biological Studies Unit (Dr Coplan), New York State Psychiatric Institute and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University (Drs Pine, Coplan, Wasserman, Miller, Fried, Greenhill, and Shaffer and Mr Davies), New York, NY.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1997;54(9):839-846. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1997.01830210083010

Background:  There is evidence of relationships among serotonin, aggressive behavior, and a childhood history of socially adverse-rearing conditions. This study examines the prolactin response to fenfluramine hydrochloride challenge in young boys who show clinically significant aggressive behavior or who are raised in a social environment that is conducive to the development of chronic aggression.

Methods:  A series of 34 younger brothers of convicted delinquents underwent standardized psychiatric and observation-based assessments of their social-rearing environments that were conducted during home visits. Approximately 2 years later, these boys underwent a reassessment of psychiatric status and an assessment of central serotonergic activity using the fenfluramine challenge procedure.

Results:  Increasing degrees of aggressive behavior at either assessment were positively correlated with the prolactin response to fenfluramine challenge. Furthermore, adverse-rearing circumstances that were conducive to the development of aggressive behavior also exhibited positive correlations with the prolactin response. This association between adverse rearing and the prolactin response was statistically independent of that between aggression and the prolactin response.

Conclusion:  In young boys, aggressive behavior and social circumstances that are conducive to the development of aggressive behavior are positively correlated with a marker of central serotonergic activity.