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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.
MOOD-HF supports lack of antidepressant efficacy in HF patients

MOOD-HF supports lack of antidepressant efficacy in HF patients

Escitalopram influences neither depressive symptoms nor medical outcomes when compared with placebo in patients with heart failure and depression, show the MOOD-HF findings. [More]
Mayo Clinic highlights potential merits of individualizing treatment for patients taking antidepressants

Mayo Clinic highlights potential merits of individualizing treatment for patients taking antidepressants

Mayo Clinic is highlighting the potential merits of using precision medicine in prescribing antidepressants. Details appear in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. [More]
Maternal SRI treatment may cause microscopic changes in fetal brain structure

Maternal SRI treatment may cause microscopic changes in fetal brain structure

A new Finnish study shows that fetal exposure to commonly used SRI drugs may affect brain activity in newborns. The researchers suggest that the effects of drugs on fetal brain function should be assessed more carefully. [More]
Prenatal mild viral assault may cause central nervous system malfunctions in children

Prenatal mild viral assault may cause central nervous system malfunctions in children

Babies born to mothers whose immune systems had to grapple with a viral assault -- even a mild one -- have increased risk of brain and central nervous system abnormalities, according to a new study. [More]
New understanding of neurotransmitter transporter mechanism gives hope for treating depression, addicition

New understanding of neurotransmitter transporter mechanism gives hope for treating depression, addicition

When nerve cells have to communicate with each other in our brains, it involves release of small signal molecules, the so-called neurotransmitters, which act as chemical messengers in specific points of contact between nerve cells, called synapses. [More]
Researchers find new clue to understanding 'chemo brain' in cancer patients

Researchers find new clue to understanding 'chemo brain' in cancer patients

During and after chemotherapy, many cancer patients describe feeling a mental fog, a condition that has been dubbed "chemo brain." Why this happens is unclear, but researchers have found a new clue to understanding this syndrome. [More]
Depressive symptoms may affect fertility of women

Depressive symptoms may affect fertility of women

Women with severe depressive symptoms have a decreased chance of becoming pregnant, while the use of psychotropic medications does not appear to harm fertility, a study by researchers from the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine shows. [More]
Understanding potential of illicit drug ketamine in treating depression

Understanding potential of illicit drug ketamine in treating depression

Advancing the understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders is a principal goal of neuroscientists. As mental disorders are the leading cause of disabilities worldwide, it is concerning that there are few effective therapeutics on the market due to the lack of knowledge regarding pathophysiology. [More]
Prenatal exposure to SSRIs linked to lower birth weight, gestational length

Prenatal exposure to SSRIs linked to lower birth weight, gestational length

A new study, published today in the International Journal of Epidemiology, has found that prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has a significant association with lower birth weight and gestational length. [More]
Magic mushroom compound may offer potential new way for antidepressant research

Magic mushroom compound may offer potential new way for antidepressant research

Psilocybin – a hallucinogenic compound derived from magic mushrooms – may offer a possible new avenue for antidepressant research, according to a new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry today. [More]
New study finds link between prenatal SSRI use and umbilical cord length

New study finds link between prenatal SSRI use and umbilical cord length

Umbilical cords of children whose mothers used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy may be longer than umbilical cords of other newborn children, shows a new study from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs, are commonly prescribed antidepressants, and this is the first time their association with umbilical cord length was observed. [More]
Changes in the brain make people prone to alcoholism

Changes in the brain make people prone to alcoholism

The brain tissue of persons with alcohol dependence shows a variety of changes compared to non-alcoholic control persons. All alcoholics' brains share some characteristics, but some are exclusive to the brain tissue of anxiety-prone type 1 alcoholics or impulsive type 2 alcoholics, according to a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland. [More]
Exposure to SSRI during gestation increases chances of adolescent offspring depression

Exposure to SSRI during gestation increases chances of adolescent offspring depression

A study to be published in the May 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reports that use of certain antidepressants during pregnancy can result in offspring depression by early adolescence. [More]
Certain genetic markers linked with depression can also predict who may benefit from exercise

Certain genetic markers linked with depression can also predict who may benefit from exercise

Call it personalized medicine for depression -- but the prescription in this case is exercise, which University of Florida Health researchers have found helps people with certain genetic traits. [More]
Nutritional supplements can enhance effectiveness of antidepressants

Nutritional supplements can enhance effectiveness of antidepressants

An international evidence review has found that certain nutritional supplements can increase the effectiveness of antidepressants for people with clinical depression. [More]
Light-sensitive serotonin receptors may help study causes of anxiety, depression

Light-sensitive serotonin receptors may help study causes of anxiety, depression

Anxiety and depression are two of the most frequently occurring mental disorders worldwide. Light-activated nerve cells may indicate how they are formed. [More]
Same genetic changes responsible for gastrointestinal problems in children with autism

Same genetic changes responsible for gastrointestinal problems in children with autism

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have found evidence in mice that, for some types of autism, gastrointestinal difficulties may originate from the same genetic changes that lead to the behavioral and social characteristics of the condition. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. [More]
Psilocybin administration reduces reaction to social rejection in associated brain areas

Psilocybin administration reduces reaction to social rejection in associated brain areas

Social ties are vital for mental and physical health. However, psychiatric patients in particular frequently encounter social exclusion and rejection. Furthermore, psychiatric patients often react more strongly to social rejection than healthy persons and this can have negative consequences for the development and treatment of psychiatric disorders. [More]
Researchers examine neuropsychological effect in ecstasy users

Researchers examine neuropsychological effect in ecstasy users

Researchers from the University of Liverpool have conducted a study examining the effect ecstasy has on different parts of the brain. [More]
PTSD patients carry long-term burden even with early clinical interventions

PTSD patients carry long-term burden even with early clinical interventions

The majority of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) recover after early treatment -- but a substantial number still suffer for years after a traumatic event even with early clinical interventions, according to a study publishing online April 12, 2016 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. [More]
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