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Serotonin is one of several chemical messengers in the brain, or neurotransmitters, which help brain cells communicate with one another. Among many other functions, serotonin is involved in regulating mood. Problems with making or using the right amount of serotonin have been linked to many mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, autism, and schizophrenia.

There are many genes that code for serotonin. Some of these genes guide serotonin production and other are involved in its activity. The serotonin transporter gene makes a protein that directs serotonin from the space between brain cells — where most neurotransmitters are relayed from one cell to another — back into cells, where it can be reused. Since the most widely prescribed class of medications for treating major depression acts by blocking this transporter protein, the gene has been a prime suspect in mood and anxiety disorders.

The serotonin transporter gene has many versions. Since everyone inherits a copy of this gene from each parent, a person may have two copies of the same version or one copy each of two different versions. One version of the serotonin transporter gene makes less protein, resulting in decreased transport of serotonin back into cells. This version has also long been the focus of depression research due to its suggested effect on risk.
Researchers identify 53 existing drugs that may block Ebola virus from entering human cells

Researchers identify 53 existing drugs that may block Ebola virus from entering human cells

Researchers found 53 existing drugs that may keep the Ebola virus from entering human cells, a key step in the process of infection, according to a study led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the National Institutes of Health, and published today in the Nature Press journal Emerging Microbes and Infections. [More]
Sensitive toxicity test aims to detect dangerous side effects in pharmaceutical development

Sensitive toxicity test aims to detect dangerous side effects in pharmaceutical development

Because of undetected toxicity problems, about a third of prescription drugs approved in the U.S. are withdrawn from the market or require added warning labels limiting their use. An exceptionally sensitive toxicity test invented at the University of Utah could make it possible to uncover more of these dangerous side effects early in pharmaceutical development so that fewer patients are given unsafe drugs. [More]
Environmental factors influence how genetic variants affect the brain, behaviour

Environmental factors influence how genetic variants affect the brain, behaviour

Both positive and negative experiences influence how genetic variants affect the brain and thereby behaviour, according to a new study. "Evidence is accumulating to show that the effects of variants of many genes that are common in the population depend on environmental factors. [More]
Laughing gas could be used as treatment for severe depression

Laughing gas could be used as treatment for severe depression

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, has shown early promise as a potential treatment for severe depression in patients whose symptoms don't respond to standard therapies. The pilot study, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is believed to be the first research in which patients with depression were given laughing gas. [More]
Scientists receive NIH grants to explore sudden unexpected death in epilepsy

Scientists receive NIH grants to explore sudden unexpected death in epilepsy

Nine groups of scientists will receive funding totaling $5.9 million in 2014 to work together on increasing the understanding of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), the leading cause of death from epilepsy. The consortium becomes the second Center Without Walls, an initiative to speed the pace of research on difficult problems in epilepsy by promoting collaborative research. [More]
Case Western Reserve selected to lead $27.3 million international effort to identify causes of SUDEP

Case Western Reserve selected to lead $27.3 million international effort to identify causes of SUDEP

Case Western Reserve is one of two universities in the country selected to lead a $27.3 million international effort to identify the causes of a mysterious and deadly phenomenon that strikes people with epilepsy without warning. [More]
McMaster University researchers identify hormone that contributes to obesity, diabetes

McMaster University researchers identify hormone that contributes to obesity, diabetes

Researchers from McMaster University have identified an important hormone that is elevated in obese people and contributes to obesity and diabetes by inhibiting brown fat activity. [More]
New chemical compound shows promise in restoring function lost to spinal cord injury

New chemical compound shows promise in restoring function lost to spinal cord injury

Case Western Reserve scientists have developed a new chemical compound that shows extraordinary promise in restoring function lost to spinal cord injury. The compound, which the researchers dubbed intracellular sigma peptide (ISP), allowed paralyzed muscles to activate in more than 80 percent of the animals tested. [More]
Researchers find link between vitamin D deficiency and seasonal affective disorder

Researchers find link between vitamin D deficiency and seasonal affective disorder

Vitamin D deficiency is not just harmful to physical health--it also might impact mental health, according to a team of researchers that has found a link between seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, and a lack of sunlight. [More]
Research breakthrough offers hope for patients with severe spinal cord injuries

Research breakthrough offers hope for patients with severe spinal cord injuries

Case Western Reserve researchers have developed a procedure that restores function to muscles involved in the control of breathing - even when they have been paralyzed for more than a year. The breakthrough offers hope that one day patients with severe spinal cord injuries will be able to breathe again without the assistance of a ventilator. [More]
New study shows that brain’s ability to manage stress depends on brain protein

New study shows that brain’s ability to manage stress depends on brain protein

The brain's ability to effectively deal with stress or to lack that ability and be more susceptible to depression, depends on a single protein type in each person's brain, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published November 12 in the journal Nature. [More]
Scientists receive NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grants for mental health research

Scientists receive NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grants for mental health research

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation today announced the award of NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grants valued at $1.5 million to 15 scientists, who are full professors or the equivalent, conducting innovative projects in diverse areas of neurobiological and behavioral research. [More]
New AGA guidelines provide guidance on IBS treatments

New AGA guidelines provide guidance on IBS treatments

Up to 15 percent of the general adult population is affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and most patients struggle to find effective drug therapy. A new guideline from the American Gastroenterological Association provides these patients and their physician's guidance. [More]
New educational program aims to reduce fatalities involving older drivers

New educational program aims to reduce fatalities involving older drivers

Every day in America, roughly 10,000 people turn age 65. To help keep roadways safe as America grays and to help preserve the freedom of mobility of older drivers, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine are training law enforcement officers to recognize warning signs of impaired driving skills and to take appropriate, compassionate action. They are also training doctors to think more about their patients' ability to drive safely with age. [More]
Scratching itchy skin causes the brain to release serotonin, intensifies itchy feeling

Scratching itchy skin causes the brain to release serotonin, intensifies itchy feeling

Turns out your mom was right: Scratching an itch only makes it worse. New research from scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that scratching causes the brain to release serotonin, which intensifies the itch sensation. [More]
Neurocrine Biosciences' NBI-98854 drug gets breakthrough designation for tardive dyskinesia

Neurocrine Biosciences' NBI-98854 drug gets breakthrough designation for tardive dyskinesia

Neurocrine Biosciences, Inc. announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation for its Vesicular Monoamine Transporter 2 inhibitor, NBI-98854, in tardive dyskinesia. [More]
Novel way for treating non-cardiac chest pain due to esophageal hypersensitivity

Novel way for treating non-cardiac chest pain due to esophageal hypersensitivity

Chest pain doesn't necessarily come from the heart. An estimated 200,000 Americans each year experience non-cardiac chest pain, which in addition to pain can involve painful swallowing, discomfort and anxiety. Non-cardiac chest pain can be frightening for patients and result in visits to the emergency room because the painful symptoms, while often originating in the esophagus, can mimic a heart attack. [More]
Fatty fish intake appears to increase antidepressant response rates

Fatty fish intake appears to increase antidepressant response rates

Up to half of patients who suffer from depression (Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD) do not respond to treatment with SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). Now a group of Dutch researchers have carried out a study which shows that increasing fatty fish intake appears to increase the response rate in patients who do not respond to antidepressants. [More]
New drug naming system to be presented at ECNP conference in Berlin

New drug naming system to be presented at ECNP conference in Berlin

What's in a name? Doctors have found that the name of the drug you are prescribed significantly influences how the patient sees the treatment. [More]
New research shows link between birth season and mood disorders

New research shows link between birth season and mood disorders

New research shows that the season you are born has a significant impact on your risk of developing mood disorders. People born at certain times of year may have a greater chance of developing certain types of affective temperaments, which in turn can lead to mood disorders (affective disorders). [More]