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Serotonin and depression: pathophysiological mechanism or

Summary: Serotonin and depression:
pathophysiological mechanism or
marketing myth?
Philip J. Cowen
Neurosciences Building, Warneford Hospital, Old Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK
The notion that impaired serotonin (5-HT) function can
lead to clinical depression has a long history but is still
controversial. Some have argued that the 5-HT hypoth-
esis has been misused by the pharmaceutical industry to
promote a simplistic biological model of depression to
market selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to
medical practitioners and the public. By contrast, there is
now substantial evidence that unmedicated depressed
patients have abnormalities in brain 5-HT function; how-
ever, the relation of these abnormalities to the clinical
syndrome is unclear. The best evidence that 5-HT con-
tributes to the pathophysiology of depression comes
from studies of tryptophan depletion, which show that
lowering brain 5-HT levels can induce acute sympto-
matic relapse in recovered depressed patients. Clarifica-


Source: Alford, Simon - Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago


Collections: Biology and Medicine