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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.
Study shows structural impact of membrane lipids on medically relevant serotonin transporters

Study shows structural impact of membrane lipids on medically relevant serotonin transporters

Neurotransmitter transporters are some of the most popular transport proteins in research as they play a major role in the processing of signals in the brain. A joint study by TU Wien and the Medical University of Vienna has now successfully demonstrated for the first time the structural impact of membrane lipids on medically relevant serotonin transporters. [More]
Antidepressant use during pregnancy could increase risk of birth defects in baby, study reveals

Antidepressant use during pregnancy could increase risk of birth defects in baby, study reveals

A new Université de Montréal study in the British Medical Journal reveals that antidepressants prescribed to pregnant women could increase the chance of having a baby with birth defects. [More]
Antidepressant use doubles hip fracture risk among elders with Alzheimer's disease

Antidepressant use doubles hip fracture risk among elders with Alzheimer's disease

Antidepressant use nearly doubles the risk of hip fracture among community-dwelling persons with Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland. [More]
Second-hand smoke exposures before conception affect fetal brain development

Second-hand smoke exposures before conception affect fetal brain development

Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke -- even before conception -- appears to have a lingering impact that can later impair the brain development of a fetus, researchers at Duke Health report. [More]
New evidence may explain how gut microorganisms affect human physiology

New evidence may explain how gut microorganisms affect human physiology

Researchers have found evidence that could shed new light on the complex community of trillions of microorganisms living in all our guts, and how they interact with our bodies. [More]
Researchers find effective cure for social anxiety disorders

Researchers find effective cure for social anxiety disorders

Social phobia is the most common anxiety disorder of our time. But the current treatment regimen for patients with this diagnosis has not proven very effective. Now a team of Norwegian and British researchers believe they have found a cure for social anxiety disorders. [More]
Novel approach shows promise for treating co-occurring PTSD and SUD

Novel approach shows promise for treating co-occurring PTSD and SUD

N-acetylcysteine, when combined with group cognitive behavioral therapy, reduced symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cravings, and depression significantly more than CBT alone in veterans with co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorder, a particularly difficult-to-treat population, according to the findings of a randomized controlled pilot trial conducted by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. [More]
Study reveals self-harm is leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in Colorado

Study reveals self-harm is leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in Colorado

Self-harm was the leading cause of pregnancy-associated deaths in Colorado from 2004 to 2014, ahead of car crashes, medical conditions and homicide, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. [More]
QUT neuroscientist shows how brainpower could be key to mange stress and lose weight

QUT neuroscientist shows how brainpower could be key to mange stress and lose weight

A QUT neuroscientist internationally acclaimed for her research on alcohol and sugar addiction claims brainpower rather than willpower is the key to living healthily. [More]
Antidepressant use in early pregnancy may increase risk of congenital anomalies in babies or stillbirths

Antidepressant use in early pregnancy may increase risk of congenital anomalies in babies or stillbirths

Academics at Swansea University have carried out a dose-response analysis which suggests that pregnant women who take a specific type of antidepressant in early pregnancy have a small but significantly greater risk of having babies with major congenital anomalies (sometimes referred to as birth defects) or stillbirths compared with those who did not take these antidepressants. [More]
Scientists devise new radiation-free probe for imaging molecules in the brain

Scientists devise new radiation-free probe for imaging molecules in the brain

Scientists hoping to get a glimpse of molecules that control brain activity have devised a new probe that allows them to image these molecules without using any chemical or radioactive labels. [More]
Bone density could be one of early indicators of brain degeneration in Alzheimer's disease

Bone density could be one of early indicators of brain degeneration in Alzheimer's disease

Researchers at NEOMED have just identified a major connection between areas of the brainstem - the ancient area that controls mood, sleep and metabolism - and detrimental changes to bone in a preclinical model of Alzheimer's disease (AD). [More]
Electro-acupuncture may be effective in treating sleep disturbances in women with breast cancer

Electro-acupuncture may be effective in treating sleep disturbances in women with breast cancer

It's somewhat of a little-known adverse effect of having breast cancer, but studies suggest that approximately 30% to 40% of women with breast cancer report persistent hot flashes. Nocturnal hot flashes are among the most problematic because they can contribute to poor sleep. [More]
Length of telomeres may reveal if vitamin D and omega-3 supplements improve heart health, longevity

Length of telomeres may reveal if vitamin D and omega-3 supplements improve heart health, longevity

The length of your telomeres appears to be a window into your heart health and longevity, and scientists are measuring them to see if vitamin D and omega-3 supplements really improve both. [More]
Study provides new insights into how the social brain works differently in males and females

Study provides new insights into how the social brain works differently in males and females

The brain regulates social behavior differently in males and females, according to a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [More]
MIT researchers develop imaging technique that provides unprecedented view of serotonin dynamics

MIT researchers develop imaging technique that provides unprecedented view of serotonin dynamics

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that's partly responsible for feelings of happiness and for mood regulation in humans. [More]
Study links repeated SSRIs during pregnancy to childhood language disorders

Study links repeated SSRIs during pregnancy to childhood language disorders

The use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors at least twice during pregnancy may be associated with an increased risk of offspring developing a speech and/or language disorder, according to a study from Columbia University. [More]
UCLA-led study to evaluate treatment strategies for older adults with depression

UCLA-led study to evaluate treatment strategies for older adults with depression

More than half of older adults who are treated for depression find that eventually their treatments are no longer effective. When depression persists, these people are at greater risk of accelerated aging, declining mental health and even suicide. [More]
Tendency to feel lonely linked partially to genetic traits

Tendency to feel lonely linked partially to genetic traits

Loneliness is linked to poor physical and mental health, and is an even more accurate predictor of early death than obesity. [More]
High occupational levels may be risk factor for poor response to depression treatment

High occupational levels may be risk factor for poor response to depression treatment

An international study has found that having a high status job means that you are less likely to respond to standard treatment with medications for depression. [More]
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