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Concept: Serotonin


The classical serotonergic psychedelics LSD, psilocybin, mescaline are not known to cause brain damage and are regarded as non-addictive. Clinical studies do not suggest that psychedelics cause long-term mental health problems. Psychedelics have been used in the Americas for thousands of years. Over 30 million people currently living in the US have used LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline.

Concepts: Health care, Psychology, Timothy Leary, Controlled Substances Act, Mental disorder, Serotonin, Clinical trial, Psychoactive drug


Harmine is the ╬▓-carboline alkaloid with the highest concentration in the psychotropic plant decoction Ayahuasca. In rodents, classical antidepressants reverse the symptoms of depression by stimulating neuronal proliferation. It has been shown that Ayahuasca presents antidepressant effects in patients with depressive disorder. In the present study, we investigated the effects of harmine in cell cultures containing human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs, 97% nestin-positive) derived from pluripotent stem cells. After 4 days of treatment, the pool of proliferating hNPCs increased by 71.5%. Harmine has been reported as a potent inhibitor of the dual specificity tyrosine-phosphorylation-regulated kinase (DYRK1A), which regulates cell proliferation and brain development. We tested the effect of analogs of harmine, an inhibitor of DYRK1A (INDY), and an irreversible selective inhibitor of monoamine oxidase (MAO) but not DYRK1A (pargyline). INDY but not pargyline induced proliferation of hNPCs similarly to harmine, suggesting that inhibition of DYRK1A is a possible mechanism to explain harmine effects upon the proliferation of hNPCs. Our findings show that harmine enhances proliferation of hNPCs and suggest that inhibition of DYRK1A may explain its effects upon proliferation in vitro and antidepressant effects in vivo.

Concepts: Neuron, Monoamine oxidase, Serotonin, Stem cell, Monoamine oxidase inhibitor, Progenitor cell, Developmental biology, Cell biology


An aversion to harming others is a core component of human morality and is disturbed in antisocial behavior [1-4]. Deficient harm aversion may underlie instrumental and reactive aggression, which both feature in psychopathy [5]. Past work has highlighted monoaminergic influences on aggression [6-11], but a mechanistic account of how monoamines regulate antisocial motives remains elusive. We previously observed that most people show a greater aversion to inflicting pain on others than themselves [12]. Here, we investigated whether this hyperaltruistic disposition is susceptible to monoaminergic control. We observed dissociable effects of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor citalopram and the dopamine precursor levodopa on decisions to inflict pain on oneself and others for financial gain. Computational models of choice behavior showed that citalopram increased harm aversion for both self and others, while levodopa reduced hyperaltruism. The effects of citalopram were stronger than those of levodopa. Crucially, neither drug influenced the physical perception of pain or other components of choice such as motor impulsivity or loss aversion [13, 14], suggesting a direct and specific influence of serotonin and dopamine on the valuation of harm. We also found evidence for dose dependency of these effects. Finally, the drugs had dissociable effects on response times, with citalopram enhancing behavioral inhibition and levodopa reducing slowing related to being responsible for another’s fate. These distinct roles of serotonin and dopamine in modulating moral behavior have┬áimplications for potential treatments of social dysfunction that is a common feature as well as a risk factor for many psychiatric disorders.

Concepts: Reuptake inhibitor, Antisocial personality disorder, Morality, Serotonin, Mental disorder, Dopamine, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Neurotransmitter


The recent questioning of the antidepressant effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is partly based on the observation that approximately half of company-sponsored trials have failed to reveal a significant difference between active drug and placebo. Most of these have applied the Hamilton depression rating scale to assess symptom severity, the sum score for its 17 items (HDRS-17-sum) serving as effect parameter. In this study, we examined whether the negative outcomes of many SSRI trials may be partly caused by the use of this frequently questioned measure of response. We undertook patient-level post-hoc analyses of 18 industry-sponsored placebo-controlled trials regarding paroxetine, citalopram, sertraline or fluoxetine, and including in total 6669 adults with major depression, the aim being to assess what the outcome would have been if the single item depressed mood (rated 0-4) had been used as a measure of efficacy. In total, 32 drug-placebo comparisons were reassessed. While 18 out of 32 comparisons (56%) failed to separate active drug from placebo at week 6 with respect to reduction in HDRS-17-sum, only 3 out of 32 comparisons (9%) were negative when depressed mood was used as an effect parameter (P<0.001). The observation that 29 out of 32 comparisons detected an antidepressant signal from the tested SSRI suggests the effect of these drugs to be more consistent across trials than previously assumed. Further, the frequent use of the HDRS-17-sum as an effect parameter may have distorted the current view on the usefulness of SSRIs and hampered the development of novel antidepressants.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 28 April 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.53.

Concepts: Venlafaxine, Paroxetine, Serotonin, Antidepressant, Sertraline, Fluoxetine, Major depressive disorder, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor


Hypothesised associations between in utero exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and congenital anomalies, particularly congenital heart defects (CHD), remain controversial. We investigated the putative teratogenicity of SSRI prescription in the 91 days either side of first day of last menstrual period (LMP).

Concepts: Fluoxetine, Fluvoxamine, Sertraline, Serotonin, Antidepressant, Tricyclic antidepressant, Reuptake inhibitor, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor


We describe a disease encompassing infantile-onset movement disorder (including severe parkinsonism and nonambulation), mood disturbance, autonomic instability, and developmental delay, and we describe evidence supporting its causation by a mutation in SLC18A2 (which encodes vesicular monoamine transporter 2 [VMAT2]). VMAT2 translocates dopamine and serotonin into synaptic vesicles and is essential for motor control, stable mood, and autonomic function. Treatment with levodopa was associated with worsening, whereas treatment with direct dopamine agonists was followed by immediate ambulation, near-complete correction of the movement disorder, and resumption of development.

Concepts: Monoamine neurotransmitter, Parkinson's disease, Transport, Monoamine transporter, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Neurotransmitter, Serotonin


Adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal subgranular zone (SGZ) and the anterior subventricular zone (SVZ) is regulated by multiple factors, including neurotransmitters, hormones, stress, aging, voluntary exercise, environmental enrichment, learning, and ischemia. Chronic treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) modulates adult neurogenesis in the SGZ, the neuronal area that is hypothesized to mediate the antidepressant effects of these substances. Layer 1 inhibitory neuron progenitor cells (L1-INP cells) were recently identified in the adult cortex, but it remains unclear what factors other than ischemia affect the neurogenesis of L1-INP cells. Here, we show that chronic treatment with an SSRI, fluoxetine (FLX), stimulated the neurogenesis of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic interneurons from L1-INP cells in the cortex of adult mice. Immunofluorescence and genetic analyses revealed that FLX treatment increased the number of L1-INP cells in all examined cortical regions in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, enhanced Venus reporter expression driven by the synapsin I promoter demonstrated that GABAergic interneurons were derived from retrovirally labeled L1-INP cells. In order to assess if these new GABAergic interneurons possess physiological function, we examined the their effect on apoptosis surrounding areas following ischemia. Intriguingly, the number of neurons expressing the apoptotic marker, active caspase-3, was significantly lower in adult mice pretreated with FLX. Our findings indicate that FLX stimulates the neurogenesis of cortical GABAergic interneurons, which might have, at least, some functions, including a suppressive effect on apoptosis induced by ischemia.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 4 January 2013; doi:10.1038/npp.2013.2.

Concepts: Subgranular zone, Nervous system, Hippocampus, Serotonin, Neuron, Neurogenesis, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor


To estimate the association between prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and motor development in children considering the effect of maternal symptoms of anxiety and depression before, during and after pregnancy.

Concepts: Fluoxetine, Sertraline, Tricyclic antidepressant, Antidepressant, Major depressive disorder, Reuptake inhibitor, Serotonin, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor


Current antidepressants used to treat pediatric patients have the disadvantage of limited efficacy and potentially serious side effects. The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of vitamin C as an adjuvant agent in the treatment of pediatric major depressive disorder in a six-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial.

Concepts: Citalopram, Serotonin, Major depressive disorder, Paroxetine, Venlafaxine, Fluoxetine, Sertraline, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor


The melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) is well recognized as an important mediator of body weight homeostasis. Activation of MC4R causes dramatic weight loss in rodent models, and mutations in human are associated with obesity. This makes MC4R a logical target for pharmacological therapy for the treatment of obesity. However, previous studies in rodents and humans have observed a broad array of side effects caused by acute treatment with MC4R agonists, including increased heart rate and blood pressure. We demonstrate that treatment with a highly-selective novel MC4R agonist (BIM-22493 or RM-493) resulted in transient decreases in food intake (35%), with persistent weight loss over 8 weeks of treatment (13.5%) in a diet-induced obese nonhuman primate model. Consistent with weight loss, these animals significantly decreased adiposity and improved glucose tolerance. Importantly, we observed no increases in blood pressure or heart rate with BIM-22493 treatment. In contrast, treatment with LY2112688, an MC4R agonist previously shown to increase blood pressure and heart rate in humans, caused increases in blood pressure and heart rate, while modestly decreasing food intake. These studies demonstrate that distinct melanocortin peptide drugs can have widely different efficacies and side effects.

Concepts: Insulin, Melanocortin 4 receptor, Nutrition, Serotonin, Adipose tissue, Proopiomelanocortin, Primate, Obesity