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Findings on Serotonin Aid Mental Health Care

serotoninNew research suggests that the neurotransmitter serotonin, which acts as a chemical messenger between nerve cells, plays a critical role in regulating emotions such as aggression during social decision-making.

Serotonin has long been associated with social behavior, but its precise involvement in impulsive aggression has been controversial.

Though many have hypothesized the link between serotonin and impulsivity, this is one of the first studies to show a causal link between the two.

Their findings highlight why some of us may become combative or aggressive when we haven’t eaten. The essential amino acid necessary for the body to create serotonin can only be obtained through diet.

Therefore, our serotonin levels naturally decline when we don’t eat, an effect the researchers took advantage of in their experimental technique.

The research also provides insight into clinical disorders characterized by low serotonin levels, such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and may help explain some of the social difficulties associated with these disorders.

This research, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, suggests that patients with depression and anxiety disorders may benefit from therapies that teach them strategies for regulating emotions during decision making, particularly in social scenarios.

The researchers were able reduce brain serotonin levels in healthy volunteers for a short time by manipulating their diet. They used a situation known as the ‘Ultimatum Game’ to investigate how individuals with low serotonin react to what they perceive as unfair behavior.

In this game one player proposes a way to split a sum of money with a partner. If the partner accepts, both players are paid accordingly. But if he rejects the offer, neither player is paid.

Normally, people tend to reject about half of all offers less than 20-30 percent of the total stake, despite the fact that this means they receive nothing – but rejection rates increased to more than 80 percent after serotonin reductions.

Other measures showed that the volunteers with serotonin depletion were not simply depressed or hypersensitive to lost rewards.

PhD student Molly Crockett, a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, said: “Our results suggest that serotonin plays a critical role in social decision-making by normally keeping aggressive social responses in check.

‚ÄúChanges in diet and stress cause our serotonin levels to fluctuate naturally, so it’s important to understand how this might affect our everyday decision-making.”

Source: University of Cambridge

Findings on Serotonin Aid Mental Health Care

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Findings on Serotonin Aid Mental Health Care. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/06/06/findings-on-serotonin-aid-mental-health-care/2422.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.