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Enzyme Found to Control Serotonin Production

Researchers have provided the first direct evidence in mice of the role of an enzyme that specifically controls the production of serotonin in the brain. Different versions of that serotonin enzyme have a major effect, which has been linked to many basic behavioral and physiological functions including mood, emotion, sleep and appetite.

Serotonin is a "neurotransmitter," a chemical that one neuron uses to trigger a nerve impulse in its neighbors. Thus, serotonin levels can profoundly affect brain function and behavior.

The finding in mice sets the stage for new insights into the role the serotonin enzyme and the gene that encodes it might play in animal behavior and human psychiatric disorders, researchers said. Low levels of serotonin have been implicated in many disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The enzyme might also influence patients' responses to the class of drugs known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which include paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac). The influence of the serotonin enzyme raises the possibility that a genetic test to distinguish which version of the gene a patient has could predict the patient's response to the drugs.

I believe these drugs have provided enormous symptomatic relief from the ravages of depression. I am equally certain that they have saved many people's lives by preventing suicide. However, I am just as equally certain that these drugs rarely, if ever, are the appropriate long-term solution. They serve merely as a band-aid to temporarily resolve the symptoms.

The food you eat has a far more profound influence on your feelings than you think. This is particularly true for sugars and grain that require insulin to metabolize them. Elevated insulin levels will lead to disrupted serotonin and other neurochemicals that will lead to depression.

Science Daily July 9, 2004