Eli5: Deficiency of Serotonin in the brain


What genetic factors and behaviors lead to deficienct amount of serotonin in the brain?

In: 3

Stress, not sleeping well, not eating healthy etc. your brain won’t have it’s nutrients and strenght to produce enough of it. Brain suffers so you should too, that way you’re pushed to change for the better. That’s external causes, significant low levels of serotonin are not usually from external modifyable factors, or if they are it’s because of years and decades of them accumulating effect.

I’ll leave the science to someone else but here’s a song about it!


Let’s stop right now: Serotonin deficiency is not an identifiable condition, and has never been shown to be the cause of anything. There was a time some decades ago when neurotransmitters and early antidepressants had just been discovered when “depression=low X” was a serious theory, but everything we’ve discovered since has made it clear that the picture is much more complicated. The pharmaceutical industry has tended to double down on the idea, as it makes for a quick and easy medical explanation.

Some key points:

* Brain serotonin isn’t really measurable directly. You can look at breakdown products of serotonin in spinal fluid, but they actually predict aggression and suicide rather than depressed mood.

* We can give people an amino acid shake that rapidly makes your brain unable to make more serotonin, but doesn’t make healthy people depressed (there’s some controversy on what else it does.)

* Antidepressants that act on serotonin reuptake increase levels in the brain rapidly, yet work slowly and progressively over several weeks, suggesting other stuff has to happen. The fastest-acting treatments for depression use other targets.