Serotonin improves ability to learn



Serotonin mediates communication between nerve cells. It is commonly known as the hormone of happiness. Research published in Nature Communications demonstrate new properties of this compound.

The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) has long been considered to be the main objective of therapies of all sorts that are applied in the cases of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders or anxiety.This is not only because serotonin is related to an extensive spectrum of cognitive abilities, but also as it influences the process of decision-making - both in humans and animals.New research also suggests a correlation of this hormone with the ease of learning.

The authors of said research, Kiyohito Iigaya and Peter Dayan at Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit and Max Planck UCL Center for Computational Psychiatry and Aging Research, explain what their research results reveal - according to them, serotonin augments the plasticity of brain through its influence on the pace of learning, which may partly be due to the fact that the treatment involving an SSRI can be more effective when combined with so-called cognitive-behavioural therapy.

The experiment involved mice subject to training that assumed making a choice of one of the two ways leading to a reward.The mice had to learn which of the ways was more satisfactory on a constant basis.What is more, certain specimens had serotonin release within their brains temporarily enhanced with the use of genetically-modified nerve cells (optogenetics). Such stimulation of hormone release facilitated their ability to learn.The discovery will be harnessed in the process of treatment targeted at mental disorders in order to model new patterns of behaviour.


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