To test the hypothesis that evidence of reduced central serotonergic (5-HT) system function in probands with personality disorders is associated with an elevated morbid risk of psychopathological conditions putatively associated with 5-HT dysfunction in firstdegree relatives of these probands.Methods:Data were collected during a study of the 5-HT correlates of behavior in male patients with DSM-III personality disorders conducted at a Veterans Affairs medical center. Probands in this study were selected from those patients who had undergone both a fenfluramine hydrochloride challenge and a family history assessment. Axis II diagnoses were made acording to DSM-III criteria after a structured interview of the proband, using the Structured Interview for Diagnosing Personality Disorders, given by two raters and a similar interview with a knowledgeable informant by another rater.
Reduced prolactin responses to the 5-HT releasing/uptake inhibiting agent fenfluramine was associated with an elevated morbid risk of impulsive personality disorder traits in the first-degree relatives of patients with a primary DSM-III diagnosis of a personality disorder. Quantitative scores on assessments of impulsive aggression in the probands were not correlated with an increased morbid risk for impulsive personality disorder traits. A trend in the same direction was noted for affective personality disorder traits and alcoholism.
These results suggest that a central 5-HT system abnormality in probands is associated with an increased risk of impulsive aggression in their first-degree relatives, and that assessment of central 5-HT system function in probands may be a more sensitive parameter for identification of this familial trait than the presence of impulsive aggressive behaviors in the proband.