Sep 13, 2010


Summary: This week's scientific-sounding word may be more important to you than you think. It affects the most apparent part about the way you communicate with your world and with yourself: your mood!

What is serotonin? And why should you care?

You don't have to be a "Wise Geek" to want to learn about this important hormone found in the brain and elsewhere in the body that transmits nerve impulses. As such, it's a neurotransmitter, and it works with other neurotransmitters (like noradrenaline, dopamine and its very own off-shoot, melatonin) to help us operate important body functions—like digestion and blood flow. It also affects and helps to create our moods.

Many anti-depressant drugs make use of serotonin to help normalize moods in depressed people. In fact, there are a whole class of such drugs known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, that work with the brain's naturally occurring neurotransmitters (especially serotonin) to change the balance of the various brain chemicals and to artificially generate a more normalized amount of each—thus balancing out a person's moods, as well.

You can learn much more about serotonin and other neurotransmitters here at this website that breaks down neuroscience into kid-friendly lessons. And, as on every Monday, you can learn about the word serotonin, this week's featured word, below.

Serotonin (SER - uh - TOW - nin) - (n.) a powerful vasoconstrictor, or hormone/neurotransmitter, that's found in the brain, blood stream and gastric mucous membranes of mammals, including humans. The first known use of this word was in 1948 by doctors at the Cleveland Clinic who combined the words serum and tone (as in vascular tone) to coin the term serotonin. The chemical name for it is 5-HT.

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