Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) is a chemical found in the human body.
It carries signals along and between nerves – a neurotransmitter. It is mainly found in the brain, bowels and blood platelets.
Serotonin is thought to be especially active in constricting smooth muscles, transmitting impulses between nerve cells, regulating cyclic body processes and contributing to wellbeing and happiness.
Serotonin is regarded by some researchers as a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance, and that a deficit of serotonin leads to depression.
The word serotonin comes from its discovery when it was isolated in 1948 by Maurice M. Rapport and initially classified as a serum agent that affected vascular tone.
Here are some key points about serotonin.
- Serotonin is an important chemical neurotransmitter in the human body.
- It is commonly regarded as a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance.
- Serotonin is created by a biochemical conversion process.
- Serotonin is manufactured in the brain and the intestines. The majority of the body’s serotonin, between 80-90%, can be found in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Serotonin that is used inside the brain must be produced within it.
- It is thought that serotonin can affect mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function.
- An association has been made between depression and serotonin. Scientists remain unsure whether decreased levels of serotonin contribute to depression or depression causes a decrease in serotonin levels.
- Drugs that alter serotonin levels have important clinical uses such as in the treatment of depression, nausea and migraine.
- Medical research continues to evaluate the role of serotonin in obesity and Parkinson’s disease.
- Other ways to increase body serotonin levels include mood induction, light, exercise and diet.