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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.
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]
Mice study explains why antidepressants don't work in some patients

Mice study explains why antidepressants don't work in some patients

SSRI antidepressants (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, the best known being Prozactm) are amongst the most commonly taken medicines. [More]
Study provides insight into how weight-loss drug acts in the brain

Study provides insight into how weight-loss drug acts in the brain

A weight-loss drug dampened the response to food cues in regions of the brain associated with attention and emotion, leading to decreases in caloric intake, weight and body mass index (BMI), a team led by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reported. [More]
Beta-blockers can help treat bone loss caused by antidepressants in mice

Beta-blockers can help treat bone loss caused by antidepressants in mice

The antidepressant fluoxetine causes bone loss by instructing the brain to send out signals that increase bone breakdown, but a beta-blocker can intercept the signals, a new study in mice has found. [More]
SAGA funding initiative aims to advance understanding of potential sex differences in Alzheimer's

SAGA funding initiative aims to advance understanding of potential sex differences in Alzheimer's

The first-ever Alzheimer's Association Sex and Gender in Alzheimer's research grant awards will provide $2.2 million to nine projects to advance understanding of the disproportionate effect of Alzheimer's disease on women. [More]
SSRI treatment improves cognitive and social functioning in young children with fragile X

SSRI treatment improves cognitive and social functioning in young children with fragile X

Treatment with sertraline may provide nominal but important improvements in cognition and social participation in very young children with fragile X syndrome, the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability and the leading single-gene cause of autism, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found. [More]
UNC researchers map anxiety circuit in the brain that may explain side effects of antidepressants

UNC researchers map anxiety circuit in the brain that may explain side effects of antidepressants

More than 100 million people worldwide take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac and Zoloft, to treat depression, anxiety and related conditions, but these drugs have a common and mysterious side effect: they can worsen anxiety in the first few weeks of use, which leads many patients to stop treatment. [More]
New research discovers how opposite-sex hormonal therapy influences the brain

New research discovers how opposite-sex hormonal therapy influences the brain

Women and men often show marked differences as regards mental illnesses. In order to learn more about this phenomenon, a project supported by the Austrian Science Fund FWF explored how opposite-sex hormonal therapy applied to transgender individuals influences the brain. [More]
Swimming can be effective option for treating patients with fibromyalgia pain

Swimming can be effective option for treating patients with fibromyalgia pain

A study performed by researchers at the Federal University of São Paulo shows swimming is as effective as walking to relieve pain and improve quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia. [More]
Gene mutation linked to impulsive drunken behaviour shields bearers from obesity, insulin resistance

Gene mutation linked to impulsive drunken behaviour shields bearers from obesity, insulin resistance

University of Helsinki researchers have previously demonstrated that a point mutation in a gene of serotonin 2B receptor can render the carrier prone to impulsive behaviour, particularly when drunk. [More]
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