Findings provide insight into clinical disorders characterised by low serotonin level, such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and severe anxiety
New research by scientists at the University of Cambridge suggests that the neurotransmitter serotonin, which acts as a chemical messenger between nerve cells, plays a critical role in regulating emotions such as aggression during social decision-making.
Serotonin has long been associated with social behaviour, but its precise involvement in impulsive aggression has been controversial. Though many have hypothesised the link between serotonin and impulsivity, this is one of the first studies to show a causal link between the two.
Their findings highlight why some of us may become combative or aggressive when we haven't eaten. The essential amino acid necessary for the body to create serotonin can only be obtained through diet. Therefore, our serotonin levels naturally decline when we don't eat, an effect the researchers took advantage of in their experimental technique.
The research also provides insight into clinical disorders characterised by low serotonin levels, such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and may help explain some of the social difficulties associated with these disorders.
This research, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, suggests that patients with depression and anxiety disorders may benefit from therapies that teach them strategies for regulating emotions during decision making, particularly in social scenarios.
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