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Does Too Much Serotonin Cause Schizophrenia

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Whats The Difference Between Dopamine And Serotonin

Serotonin Syndrome | Causes (Medications), Pathophysiology, Signs & Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Dopamine and serotonin are both neurotransmitters. This means they are chemical message carriers between nerve cells in the brain as well as to and from other areas of your body. Both are also considered the happy hormones, as they both play a role in positive mood and emotion. Serotonin is associated with happiness, focus and calmness. Dopamine is associated with rewards and motivation. Dopamine and serotonin also share involvement in some mental health conditions, including depression and mood disorders.

Dopamine and serotonin also have some distinct functions. Dopamine controls body movements and coordination. Serotonin helps regulate digestive functions including bowel function and appetite. Dopamine causes a feeling of hunger while serotonin suppresses that feeling. Dopamine is mostly stored in your brain while serotonin is found mostly in your gut.

Sometimes these neurotransmitters work together to stay in a careful chemical balance in your body. Sometimes an imbalance leads to an overproduction of the other neurotransmitter. Having too much or too little of either can cause physical and psychological symptoms.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

The Chemistry Of Depression

Lets be clear depression is more than a chemical reaction. The American Psychiatric Association states that Psychiatric disorders result from the complex interaction of physical, psychological, and social factors and treatment may be directed toward any or all three of these areas. That said, its still helpful to understand whats going on in our brains.

There are three major neurotransmitters molecules that help your nervous system communicate that we know are critical for a positive mood. Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin each play a role, and deficiencies in any way contribute to depression. A neurotransmitter deficiency can occur when your brain isnt producing the amount it needs or when it isnt efficiently using its supply.

Dopamine Systems: Anatomy And Function

An appreciation for the neuroanatomical differences in subcortical dopaminergic projections/circuitry between rodents and primates is essential for effective communication between clinical and basic researchers. For example, primates feature a more prominent substantia nigra and less distinctive ventral tegmental area than rodents. However, more pertinent to the current review are homologous functional subdivisions of the striatum observed in both rodents and primates,,,. These include the limbic, associative and sensorimotor areas . The associative striatum, defined by its dense connectivity from the frontal and parietal associative cortices, is key for goal-directed action and behavioural flexibility. The limbic striatum, defined by connectivity to the hippocampus, amygdala and medial orbitofrontal cortex, is involved in reward and motivation. The sensorimotor striatum, defined by connectivity to sensory and motor cortices, is critical for habit formation. These functional subdivisions are also interconnected by feedforward striato-nigro-striatal projections. The heavy basis on behavioural outcomes in neuropsychiatry has made functional subdivisions such as these more relevant than ever.

Fig. 1: Functional subdivisions of the dopamine system across species.

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Are There Other Neurotransmitters Involved

While dopamine receives a large amount of attention when looking at schizophrenia symptoms, its not the only neurotransmitter researchers are eyeing with this disorder.

Of the over 40 different neurotransmitters studied by researchers today, there are four others that are believed to play a role in schizophrenia — glutamate, GABA, serotonin, and acetylcholine.

Lets take a closer look at these neurotransmitters and what theyre responsible for:

  • Glutamate – the major excitatory neurotransmitter thats found in nearly 60% of neurons in the brain. It plays a major role in learning and memory as we mature, more specifically long-term potentiation in the brain. Researchers believe schizophrenia symptoms can be triggered by high or low levels of glutamate.
  • GABA – also known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter thats found throughout the brain. It plays an important role in motor control, vision, regulating anxiety, minimizing fear, and producing a calming effect in the body. Researchers believe low levels of GABA in the brain can lead to schizophrenia symptoms.
  • Acetylcholine – an excitatory neurotransmitter that was the first neurotransmitter ever identified by researchers. It has a variety of roles in the brain and body, including the activation and movement of muscles, motivation, arousal, attention, learning, and memory. Researchers believe changes in the muscarinic acetylcholine system play a role in schizophrenia symptoms.
  • How Are Low Dopamine Levels Linked To Adhd

    Schizophrenia spectrum disorder

    The connection between ADHD and dopamine is a little complicated.

    Your childâs brain makes dopamine naturally. Your hypothalamus and your adrenal glands help create and release the chemical.

    If your child has ADHD, they may be low in dopamine but high in something called dopamine transporters. Thatâs because their low dopamine may actually result from having too many of the transporters that take dopamine out of their brain cells. Those transporters wash dopamine out of your childâs brain before the chemical can finish its job.

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    The Link Between Serotonin And Depression

    The medical community links low levels of serotonin to depression. But scientists cant yet definitively say whether low serotonin causes depression or depression depletes serotonin.

    Regardless, a serotonin deficiency often points towards depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Research shows that adequate serotonin in the brain is essential in controlling our anxiety and fear responses, as well as promoting feelings of happiness.

    Learn more about serotonin:

    Serotonin Vs Dopamine: What Are The Differences

    By Olivia Guy-Evans, published Sept 14, 2021

    Fact checkedby Saul Mcleod, PhD

    Key Takeaways
    • Dopamine and serotonin are both neurotransmitters, meaning they are chemical messengers in the brain which communicate via neurons.
    • Serotonin is associated with feelings of happiness, focus and calm, whilst dopamine is associated with feelings of rewards, motivation, and being productive. Dopamine and serotonin are considered the âhappy hormonesâ as they play a role in increasing positive moods and emotions.
    • Both dopamine and serotonin also play a role in regulating digestion through suppressing or increasing appetite depending on the bodyâs needs.
    • Whilst they have similar effects on the brain and body, they work in different ways. A lack of either of these chemicals, or both, have been linked with mental health conditions, especially those relating to mood disorders and addiction.
    Associated with feelings of happiness, focus and calm Associated with feelings of rewards, motivation, and being productive
    Contributes to sleep and digestion Important for normal movement and balance
    Deficiency is linked with sensitivity to pain, aggressiveness, anxiety, and depression Deficiency is linked with sensitivity to memory loss, low sex drive, poor digestion, and poor cognition

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    Modelling Psychosis: The Use Of Animal Models

    Potentially, the most useful avenue for animal models to assist in schizophrenia research will be identifying convergent aetiological pathways. Understanding which neurotransmitter systems and brain regions are most involved may help to identify the core neurobiological features of schizophrenia. For example, changes in dopaminergic systems are observed in animal models after manipulation of factors based on schizophrenia epidemiology, , genetics, pharmacology and related hypotheses. These include changes in early dopamine specification factors, , sensitivities to psychostimulants,,, and alterations in dopamine neurochemistry,,, . Evidence of subcortical dopaminergic hyperactivity or sensitivity in animal models is proposed to represent the face validity for psychosis in patients. The most commonly used behavioural assessments of positive symptoms in animal models include enhanced amphetamine-induced locomotion and deficits in prepulse inhibition . These tests are widely used because they are relatively simple to perform. However, we propose that given current knowledge of the neurobiology in schizophrenia, they have outlived their usefulness as measures of positive symptoms.

    Does Research Support This Hypothesis

    Serotonin, Dopamine and your Brain

    A 2020 review supports the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia based on years of testing and diagnostic imaging.

    Unlike the original theory that focused primarily on excess dopamine and dopamine alone, the revised hypothesis makes room for other factors.

    A 2014 review, for example, noted the importance of inclusion of other influences in the pathology of schizophrenia, such as glutamate, GABA, acetylcholine, and serotonin alterations.

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    Serotonin Syndrome Or Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome

    Neuroleptic malignant syndrome has many similarities to serotonin syndrome. Both conditions are adverse reactions to psychotropic medication, and their symptoms can look identical.

    If you have any adverse reaction to taking any medication, it is very important to contact your doctor immediately.However, there are important differences. Both the onset and recovery period of NMS are much longer. Plus, NMS can be treated with a medication called dantrolene. Thus, it can be important to distinguish between the two conditions.

    Often clinicians can determine which issue a person has by evaluating their medications. Unlike serotonin syndrome, NMS is linked to drugs that affect dopamine levels. If a persons medication history still leaves doubt, doctors may need to perform clinical tests. Clinicians can diagnose NMS by looking at white blood cell count, serum iron levels, and other physical markers.

    Understanding The Symptoms Of Schizophrenia

    Early detection is often the best medicine when experiencing schizophrenia symptoms. It gives mental health professionals a prime opportunity to evaluate you mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially to give you the best treatment plan moving forward.

    Of course, early detection is only possible when the individual and individuals loved ones are aware of the common symptoms and warning signs of schizophrenia. With that being said, lets take a look at some of the most prominent symptoms experienced with schizophrenia:

    • Bizarre beliefs that might seem real to the individual but arent real and are more a result of paranoia. Also known as delusions.
    • Hallucinations include hearing things, seeing things, smelling things, and feeling things that arent real.
    • Disorganized speech often makes it difficult to understand the individual on a regular basis.
    • Disorganized behavior makes it seem as if the person is confused or unaware of what to do.
    • Social withdrawal, lack of expression, lack of emotion, reduced motivation, and the absence of other normal behaviors.
    • Catatonic behavior leads to a lack of movement or lack of communication in the individual.

    Since everyone experiences schizophrenia differently, its very important that the individual receives a professional evaluation by a mental health professional experienced with schizophrenia symptoms. This is a crucial part of the healing process.

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    Does Serotonin Reduce Depression

    For those suffering from both depression and anxiety, finding ways to boost and support serotonin in the brain may often help alleviate symptoms.

    Serotonin is involved in mood, sleep, and digestion, all states that signal to your body, Im somewhere safe. Research shows that high serotonin levels in the brain tend to correspond to happier emotions. In contrast, low serotonin levels, or fewer functioning serotonin receptors, may be linked to lower moods and symptoms of depression.

    This is why many pharmaceutical depression treatments typically revolve around promoting or recycling serotonin. Like depression itself, however, depression treatments are not one-size-fits-all.

    Box : Symptom Groups In Schizophrenia

    • Positive symptoms

      : Positive symptoms include delusions and hallucinations, linked to aberrant salience. These symptoms are most recognisable during periods of acute psychosis.

    • Cognitive symptoms

      : Impairments in learning, memory, attention and executive functioning are all included as cognitive symptoms.

    • Negative symptoms: Negative symptoms include blunting of affect , avolition and social withdrawal.

    It is widely acknowledged that we cannot recreate the complicated symptom profile of schizophrenia in animal models. However, animal models provide an avenue to invasively explore the role of neurotransmitters and circuitry in psychiatric diseases. To improve the poor predictive validity of treatments in animal models, it is critical that our understanding and the use of animal models evolves alongside our knowledge of schizophrenia neurobiology. The delayed incorporation of new clinical findings to develop better animal models highlights the need for better communication between clinical and basic research communities.

    In this article, we discuss the challenges clinicians and researchers are facing in understanding the neurobiology of positive symptoms and psychosis in schizophrenia. We discuss the implications this has for current assessments of positive symptoms in rodents and propose a more relevant set of tests for future study. Finally, the need for a joint focus on bi-directional translation between clinical and basic research is outlined.

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    What Causes Serotonin Syndrome

    Serotonin syndrome is ultimately a bad reaction to medication. It most often occurs after a person takes multiple drugs that increase serotonin. For example, someone who uses antidepressants may take cold medication. Both drugs can boost serotonin, raising the neurotransmitter levels much higher than either medication would alone.

    Serotonin syndrome can also happen if a person starts a new medication or increases their dosage. It can be difficult to predict which medications or dosages will pose a risk though. A certain level of serotonin may be therapeutic for one person and toxic for another.

    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are the most common drugs linked to the condition. Other substances that can increase serotonin include:

    • Other antidepressants
    • Triptan migraine medications
    • Over-the-counter cold medicines that contain dextromethorphan
    • Certain herbal supplements
    • Certain recreational drugs

    Symptoms of serotonin syndrome typically appear within the first 24 hours of starting or adjusting ones medication regimen. There is currently no one medical test for serotonin syndrome. A doctor would likely perform several specific tests to evaluate organ function, check for hormonal imbalances, and rule out other potential conditions, such as drug overdose.

    Family Education And Support

    There are a number of education programs for family members and others who are close to someone with schizophrenia.

    These programs can teach people about the symptoms and treatments, as well as how to support a person with the condition. This may ultimately the amount of distress the person with schizophrenia experiences.

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    How To Prevent Serotonin Syndrome

    While serotonin syndrome is not always preventable, you can stay safer by paying close attention to any negative reactions to medication. It is especially important to pay attention if anything changes in your prescription or dosage.

    Always be transparent with medical professionals about the medication and supplements youre taking, as well as any recreational drug use. Stay in communication with your psychiatrist or health care team to help monitor the effects of medication. Communication is essential if you have a combination of prescriptions.

    If you have any adverse reaction to taking any medication, it is very important to contact your doctor immediately. Left untreated, symptoms may worsen and become incapacitating. However, quick intervention can help prevent any more discomfort.

    If serotonin syndrome has interfered with your medication regimen, you may be able to get relief through therapy. The right therapist can treat your mental health issues and may help reduce your need for medication.


  • Ables, A. Z., & Nagubilli, R. . Prevention, recognition, and management of serotonin syndrome. American Family Physician, 81, 1139-1142. Retrieved from
  • Cafasso, J. Serotonin syndrome. Healthline. Retrieved from
  • Lawrence, L, . Be prepared: The ins and outs of serotonin syndrome. ACP Hospitalist. Retrieved from
  • Too Much Dopamine: Take The Next Step

    Serotonin Syndrome vs. Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome

    Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter that sparks motivation and is in charge of the brains pleasure-reward system.

    An excess of dopamine might make you the life of the party, but it also can lead to self-destructive behaviors, including addictions of all kinds.

    If symptoms point to you having a high dopamine level, take these steps:

    • Get enough sleep
    • Minimize consumption of caffeine and sugar
    • Try the natural remedies that can reduce dopamine

    If you have a problem with one or more addictive substances or behaviors, take steps to get it under control.

    Lastly, if you have reason to believe you have a dopamine-related mental disorder such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or if you take any medications that alter dopamine activity, talk to your doctor before trying any natural remedies that affect dopamine levels.

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    Other Causes Of High Dopamine Levels

    There are a few other causes of high dopamine that are related to lifestyle.

    Stress is tough on your brain in many ways, including negatively impacting your dopamine system.

    ” Too much dopamine is often a result of poor lifestyle choices too much stress, too little sleep, poor diet, partaking of addictive substances, and/or engaging in risky behaviors.

    Lack of sleep is another highly detrimental lifestyle habit that can contribute to a rise in dopamine.

    And when you dont sleep well, its tempting to push through the day on sugar and caffeine, both of which further spike dopamine levels.

    Theres a neurochemical reason that sugar and caffeine-laden energy drinks are a favorite of extreme sports enthusiasts.

    These substances give their brains the dopamine boost they crave.

    Adhd And The Link To Neurochemistry

    When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was first published in 1952, childhood psychiatric disorders were thought to be caused by environment and referred to as reactions . It wasnt until the DSM-2 was published in 1968 that ADHD began to be separated from general reactions and become its own diagnosis, referred to as the hyperkinetic reaction of childhood. This reaction was characterized by a short attention span, hyperactivity, and restlessness , and in 1980, with the publication of the DSM-3, the ADHD diagnosis became more specific and was described as ADD however, by this time, this disorder was already being treated with stimulant medications, a treatment still used to this day.

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    The Relationship Between Schizophrenia And Dopamine

    Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental disorder with a multitude of symptoms. These can range from disorganized speech and behavior to delusions and hallucinations. Some individuals are more disabled by the disorder than others, but most people with this disorder require lifelong treatment and care.

    Current research suggests that schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder with an important dopamine component.Four decades of research have focused on the role of dopamine in schizophrenia, and it seems clear that excesses or deficiencies in dopamine can lead to symptoms of schizophrenia.

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