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Neurotransmitter Serotonin and its Role in Dementia

By HERWriter
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Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical which sends messages from one synapse to another in the brain. Our bodies manufacture many different types of neurotransmitters, whose proper functioning make it possible for our brains to work, and therefore make it possible for us to live our lives.

Serotonin affects most of our brain cells, and plays a role in appetite, cognition, memory, mood, sexual urges and temperature regulation. It also affects our hearts and our muscles, and plays a part in the endocrine (hormonal) system.

The chemical name for serotonin is 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT). It is found in the brain stem, and affects many brain functions. It affects the cardiovascular, immune, gastrointestinal and renal (kidney) systems. It stimulates muscles, and sends impulses between nerve cells.

Serotonin interacts with the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Together these major players control most of our brain and bodily functions.

When they perform properly together and serotonin is doing an optimal job, we are relaxed, optimistic and serene. We experience an overall sense of well-being. Our energy level is good, pleasure in life is enhanced, and we are well able to make our own decisions and carry them out.

It is essential that all of these neurotransmitters maintain their delicate harmony for soundness and sanity to be maintained. If they should slip out of proper balance, abnormalities in thought, emotions and behavior can begin to appear. In the case of a severe serotonin imbalance, anxiety, depression, panic, rage, and obsessive compulsive behavior can result. If breakdown continues past a certain point, these abnormalities can deteriorate into dementia.

Once dementia has made its presence known, many new and disturbing behavioral and psychological symptoms can appear. The individual may suddenly be prone to wandering, and may become uncharacteristically aggressive. They may be highly depressed and forgetful, and lose their desire to eat. Excessive anxiety and phobias can increasingly hold sway over them. They may begin to experience hallucinations and paranoia, and become delusional.

Family members, caretakers and loved ones find themselves with a new dilemma. The person they used to know and love has changed, sometimes experiencing dramatic shifts in personality. They may not recognize the people they have held dear. Their reactions are no longer predictable and familiar, and new methods of coping with dementia must be sought and implemented. An unwelcome and foreign dynamic has entered upon the scene.


Dementia: Targeting Noncognitive Symptoms

HealthCentral.com: Serotonin

Memory Loss and the Brain

Neuroresearch: Dementia

Journal of Neuropsychiatry

Serotonin – How It Affects Your Health

Visit Jody's website and blog at http://www.ncubator.ca and http://ncubator.ca/blogger

Add a Comment2 Comments


Hi Pat

Serotonin plays an astonishingly important role in so many ways. I learned more about it as I was doing the research on it.

The personality changes that can be caused by out-of-balance serotonin cause great distress for those who care about dementia victims. The more we can understand about what's going on, the better.

I'm glad you found the article helpful.

September 28, 2009 - 6:24pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Jody - Thank you for this comprehensive look at serotonin and the role it plays in our everyday lives and in dementia. This is important information for anyone concerned about strong personality changes in loved ones.
Take good care,

September 28, 2009 - 6:08pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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