A Rheostat In Brain For Emotion That May Be Linked To Depression

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Depression and Brain

Although drugs that target the brain's serotonin system are widely used to treat depression, the basic biological mechanism by which they help to alleviate symptoms is poorly understood. Now, new University of Pittsburgh research suggests these drugs work by acting on a specific serotonin receptor called the 5-HT1A autoreceptor, which the study's investigators found plays a key role in regulating the response of the amygdala.

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The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, also provide a model of how specific changes in 5-HT1A autoreceptors and associated amygdala reactivity may impact a person's risk for developing depression. Much like a rheostat, these serotonin receptors regulate the brain's emotional responses and may contribute to one's vulnerability for depression and other psychiatric disorders.

The amygdala is a critical component of brain circuitry that processes clues from the environment about potential threats and generates appropriate behavioral and physiological responses

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