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How Does Serotonin Affect Behavior

5 min read

How Does Serotonin Affect Behavior – Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that play an important role in regulating mood, motivation, and other bodily functions. Serotonin is often associated with the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep and feelings of well-being. Dopamine, on the other hand, is related to pleasure, reward, motivation, and movement. While both affect mood and emotions, their specific functions and pathways in the brain are very different.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger produced in the central nervous system (CNS). Serotonin receives the scientific name 5-hydroxytritamine (5-HT) and is a neurotransmitter from the monoamine group, which contains amino acids. Serotonin is of interest to psychologists because of its role in mood.

How Does Serotonin Affect Behavior

This neurotransmitter is important for feeling happy, and that’s why low levels of serotonin are linked to mood disorders such as depression.

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Serotonin can also affect many aspects of behavior such as memory, attention, reward and anger. It may play a role in sleep, as it stimulates the part of the brain that controls sleep and wakefulness.

Outside the brain, serotonin functions as a hormone in the enteric nervous system, which is specifically found in the digestive tract. The role of the enteric nervous system is to promote healthy digestion, control heart rate, and heal wounds, among other functions.

In the brain, serotonin is produced mainly in the brainstem, in a group of nuclei called the Raphe nucleus. Serotonergic fibers are then produced from the raphe nucleus and project to the nucleus accumbens, an area of ​​the brain that functions as a reward circuit area.

Once in the nucleus accumbens, serotonin is then projected throughout the brain to several brain regions, including the brain lobes, cerebellum, hippocampus, and spinal cord.

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Serotonin is classified as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it reduces the likelihood that neurons will fire action potentials. Therefore, serotonin does not stimulate the brain. However, it balances the excessive excitatory effects of other neurotransmitters.

During neurotransmission, serotonin is released into the synaptic cleft, the space between the presynaptic neuron and the postsynaptic neuron.

Once there, serotonin will reach the serotonin receptor in the postsynaptic neuron and continue to the next neuron through an electrical impulse, or serotonin will be broken down by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, or serotonin will be reabsorbed into the presynaptic neuron. by the serotonin transporter.

Dopamine is also a neurotransmitter found in the CNS that, like serotonin, is a monoamine neurotransmitter, meaning it is derived from amino acids. Dopamine is an excitatory and an inhibitory neurotransmitter and therefore has different effects.

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Dopamine is primarily associated with pleasure, such as the satisfaction that can be felt from achieving a goal. It is also involved in motivation, sleep, attention and memory and is important in movement.

During neurotransmission, dopamine is released from presynaptic neurons to reach dopamine receptors on postsynaptic neurons.

Dopamine is highly concentrated in an area of ​​the brain called the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in the middle of the brain. In other areas of the brain, dopamine can be produced in the hypothalamus and the olfactory bulb.

There are dopamine pathways that can be triggered when exposed to a rewarding stimulus, which causes dopamine to increase in surrounding areas of the brain.

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Once produced in the VTA, dopamine can be transported through these pathways, the two main ones being the mesolimbic and mesocortical pathways. For the mesolimbic pathway, dopamine is activated in the VTA, which then projects to the nucleus accumbens, an area central to the brain’s reward circuitry.

Once in the nucleus accumbens, the level of dopamine there increases and then it can be projected to the limbic system, especially the amygdala and the hippocampus.

Connections to the amygdala can lead to feelings associated with reward. Connections to the hippocampus may help link reward to memory and learning. Connections to both areas encourage repetition of rewarding experiences or behaviors.

For example, when you eat a tasty meal, the pathway to the amygdala will associate positive feelings towards the food, while the pathway to the hippocampus will help us remember the positive feelings towards the food, making the food more likely to be sought after. .

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As for the mesocortical dopamine pathway, dopamine is also activated in the VTA, but has direct connections with the cerebral cortex, especially the frontal lobe.

The frontal lobe is linked to higher cognitive functions and this area will support the conscious experience of pleasure and reward experienced. This can link focus and motivation to a rewarding experience.

Although serotonin and dopamine may be different and differ in function, the neurotransmitters interact with each other in several ways.

Serotonin and dopamine have opposite effects on appetite. When serotonin decreases, low levels of dopamine can stimulate hunger.

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In anatomical studies, the bodies and terminals of dopaminergic neurons were found to be modulated by serotonin and to receive similar projections from serotonergic neurons. These strong neural connections appear to enhance serotonin’s functional modulation of dopaminergic activity in neural networks.

For example, a serotonin receptor called 5HT2 appears to inhibit dopaminergic activity, while 5HT2 receptor antagonists counteract the inhibition of dopaminergic activity.

The interaction between serotonin and dopamine may provide a framework for understanding the mechanisms behind some of the impulsive aggressive behaviors displayed in humans.

Because serotonin is believed to have a functional regulation of the dopaminergic system, deficiencies in serotonin function can lead to hyperactivity of the dopaminergic system, promoting impulsive behavior.

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This relationship may explain some of the serotonin and dopamine dysfunction in people with impulsive aggression. This is supported by rat studies.

It was found that after the war, the rats had significantly reduced serotonin levels, but significantly increased dopamine levels. This may cause a decrease in serotonin activity in aggression in relation to an increase in dopamine activity.

Depression is an important mental health condition for people interested in serotonin and dopamine. Each neurotransmitter is thought to play a role in the development of depressive disorders.

Although dopamine cannot directly cause depression, low levels of dopamine have been suggested to cause certain symptoms associated with depression:

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It is believed that these symptoms are related to the dysfunction of the brain’s dopamine system. The main trigger for these dysfunctions can be caused by stress, pain or trauma.

The physiological explanation is that there is a release of dopamine from presynaptic neurons and/or a disturbance of signal transduction, possibly due to a change in the number of dopamine receptors.

While dopamine may be linked to experiencing certain symptoms of depression, serotonin appears to be more involved in how emotions are processed, which can affect a person’s overall mood.

One possible explanation for serotonin-related depression is that not enough serotonin is produced in the raphe nucleus.

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Another is that the serotonin receptors on the postsynaptic neurons are not working properly, which means that serotonin cannot bind.

Also, when released into the synaptic cleft, the enzyme monoamine oxidase can break down excess serotonin, or serotonin is reabsorbed into the presynaptic neuron.

If a person has abnormal serotonin levels, they may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Serotonin is thought to be involved in anxiety-related conditions. Specific studies have shown that social anxiety disorder (SAD) is associated with a decrease in serotonin in postsynaptic neuron receptors.

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However, it has also been suggested that neurotransmission in SAD is characterized by an overactive presynaptic serotonin system (Frick et al., 2015).

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is another anxiety disorder that can be explained by serotonin deficiency, especially the symptoms of OCD that revolve around anxious thoughts.

People with OCD have also been found to have reduced serotonin binding to receptors. People diagnosed with schizophrenia may have low levels of serotonin.

People with this disorder may experience unusual thoughts that are not based on reality and may experience delusions.

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Serotonin syndrome is a condition that can occur when there is too much serotonin in the body, usually as a result of taking large doses of drugs that aim to raise low serotonin levels.

Some symptoms of serotonin syndrome include high heart rate, restlessness and headaches, but it can lead to seizures, fainting or death in rare cases if left untreated.

If a person has a disorder in the neurotransmitter dopamine, they may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

A common condition thought to be related to dopamine is schizophrenia. In schizophrenia, the positive symptoms of hallucinations and delusions are thought to be related to high dopamine levels.

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Dopamine abnormalities in the mesolimbic and prefrontal regions of the brain have been found in people with schizophrenia. The dopamine system in these areas becomes hyperactive and therefore can lead to hallucinatory and delusional experiences.

Another condition that shows a relationship with dopamine levels is Parkinson’s disease. Because dopamine can play a role in sending messages to the parts of the brain that control movement and coordination, low levels of dopamine can lead to impaired movement and eventually cause movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

Substance use disorders are also possible conditions

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