Scientists Unravel the Brain Chemistry Behind Depression

By Staff Writer

Scientists have known for years that individuals who experience major depressive symptoms often have low serotonin levels. However, medications that stimulate the release of the neurotransmitter often have serious side effects, some of which can drive individuals to substance abuse.

Investigators from the Scripps Research Institute believe that they may have found a neurological pathway that is responsible for these adverse reactions to medication. The findings could lead to more targeted therapies for individuals with depression.

Both medications and naturally occurring serotonin engage the same receptors in the brain. However, researchers found that serotonin utilizes a different pathway to produce its effects. The team believes that this knowledge may help scientists develop more targeted treatments for depression.

“Despite the fact that they activate the same receptor, serotonin leads to the assembly of a number of proteins associated with the receptor that the metabolites of serotonin do not produce,” said Laura Bohn, who led the study.

In particular, these proteins may inhibit the hallucinations that are sometimes associated with medications.