Psychiatric Imaging Group MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, Hammersmith Hospital, London W12 0NN, UK; Institute of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, Hammersmith Hospital, London W12 0NN, UK; Institute of Psychiatry, Neurology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King's College London, London SE5 8AF, UK. Electronic address: [Email]
Psychiatric disorders associated with psychosocial risk factors, including depression and psychosis, have been shown to demonstrate increased microglia activity. Whilst preclinical studies indicate that psychosocial stress leads to increased levels of microglia in the frontal cortex, no study has yet been performed in humans. This study aimed at investigating whether psychosocial risk factors for depression and/or psychosis would be associated with alterations in a brain marker expressed by microglia, the translocator specific protein (TSPO) in humans. We used [11C]-PBR28 Positron Emission Tomography on healthy subjects exposed to childhood and adulthood psychosocial risk factors (high-risk group, N = 12) and age- and sex-matched healthy controls not exposed to childhood and adulthood psychosocial risk factors (low-risk group, N = 12). The [11C]-PBR28 volume of distribution (VT) and Distribution Volume Ratio (DVR) were measured in the total gray matter, and frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital lobes. Levels of childhood trauma, anxiety and depression were measured using respectively the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, State-anxiety questionnaire and Beck Depression Inventory. Compared to the low-risk group, the high-risk group did not exhibit significant differences in the mean [11C]-PBR28 VT (F(1,20) = 1.619, p = 0.218) or DVR (F(1,22) = 0.952, p = 0.340) on any region. There were no significant correlations between the [11C]-PBR28 VT and DVRs in total gray matter and frontal lobe and measures of childhood trauma, anxiety and depression. Psychosocial risk factors for depression and/or psychosis are unlikely to be associated with alterations in [11C]-PBR28 binding, indicating that alterations in TSPO expression reported in these disorders is unlikely to be caused by psychosocial risk factors alone.