Serotonin and Schizophrenia

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The neurotransmitter serotonin is known to influence a number of important brain functions, including perception, mood, sleep, appetite, cognition, and pain. Most antidepressant medications work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, and serotonin has been implicated in a number of other mental health disorders as well.

Some of the first theories about chemical causes of schizophrenia focused on serotonin, but they were largely replaced by other theories, specifically the dopamine theory of schizophrenia, in later years. More recently, however, serotonin has again been put forward as a neurotransmitter that may been associated with schizophrenia.

The strongest sign that serotonin plays a role in schizophrenia is the effectiveness of newer atypical antipsychotic drugs like risperidone and clozapine. These drugs are better serotonin antagonists than dopamine antagonists, yet they work well to treat schizophrenia symptoms and even appear better than other drugs at treating negative symptoms and treatment-resistant forms of the disorder.

So is a problem with serotonin a cause of schizophrenia? A direct relationship has not been established. It may be that the serotonin-dopamine interaction in the brain is part of what leads to schizophrenia symptoms, but the details and underlying causes are as yet unknown.

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