Q&A #7: What is serotonin?

Sarah who?

In this week's Physician's Fact, we learned about neurotransmitters, the chemicals that allow your nerves or "neurons" to talk to each other. And, in answering the question, "How Did I Get Here?" there is one neurotransmitter in particular we need to become very familiar with.

symphonyHave you ever been to a live symphony? Imagine the stage is covered with musicians with all kinds of intruments. There is the string section, the percussion section, the brass section, etc. As you filter in to the concert hall and take your seat, the air is filled with the gentle sound of voices as arriving guests speak to each other. This background noise is subtle and you barely notice it as you settle into your seat.

Suddenly, a cymbal clangs followed by an outburst from a trumpet. Violin strings vibrate and the air is filled with a cacophony of dissonant, uncoordinated sound. Your mind flashes back to that verse in the Bible 1 Cor. 13:1 "If I speak human or angelic languages but do not have love,mI am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal." and you wish these musicians tuning their instruments would find a little "love" for your ears!

And then, a tall, powerful figure mounts the stage, steps up to the podium and picks up the baton. There is a gentle rapping barely audible above the noise and the concert hall falls into welcome silence. The conductor has arrived and hands poise above the podium and with a down swing, all is in harmony. The noise that assaulted your ears just moments before washes over you in a sea of tranquil harmonious music. You sigh in satisfaction. This is more like it!

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter with very special properties. Is is the great conductor of the nervous system. Where some neurons fire erratically and out of control, serotonin swoops in and gently inhibits the confusion. Were some neurons fall behind, slowing down, serotonin gently speeds them up. In depression, serotonin is depleted and the causes are many as I discuss in our book. And, most antidepressant medications work by raising the levels of serotonin.

In "Hope Again" you will learn more about this important neurotransmitter and the many ways in which you can bring your serotonin level back to normal so that you can conquer depression. 

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