New research reports have dispelled the long established theory of the role of serotonin in depression. Serotonin is a chemical messenger in the brain that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. It was hypothesised that an imbalance in the serotonin levels influenced mood in a way that lead to depression.
According to evidence as suggested in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience, scientists proved with an array of behavioural tests on mice lacking the ability to produce serotonin that the test mice did not exhibit depression like symptoms in the absence of Serotonin. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 350 million people suffer from Clinical Depression and it is one of the leading causes of disability across the globe.
Prozac introduced as an antidepressant drug in the 1980s worked mainly by increasing the levels of one substance in the brain – serotonin. So the scientists were led to believe that boosting serotonin was the key to solving depression. Based on this ideology, many other drugs were introduced in the market. However, continued research revealed that 60 to 70 % of these patients still felt depressed, even while taking the drugs.
In order to confirm their findings, scientists developed “sample” mice that lacked the ability to produce serotonin in their brains and subjected them to a range of behavioural tests. Interestingly, the mice were compulsive and extremely aggressive and didn’t show signs of depression either. Moreover, the “sample” mice under stress also almost behaved in the same way as most of the normal mice did.
Thus, the researchers concluded in their report that the findings suggest that serotonin is not a significant player in the condition, and different factors had to be involved. The scientists summed it up saying that this result could greatly influence the formulations of new antidepressants in the future.
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