Sex differences in the brain's serotonin system

February 13, 2008

A new thesis from he Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet shows that the brain’s serotonin system differs between men and women. The scientists who conducted the study think that they have found one of the reasons why depression and chronic anxiety are more common in women than in men.

Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter that is critical to the development and treatment of depression and chronic anxiety, conditions that, for reasons still unknown, are much more common in women than in men. A research group at Karolinska Institutet has now shown using a PET scanner that women and men differ in terms of the number of binding sites for serotonin in certain parts of the brain.

Their results, which are to be presented in a doctoral thesis by Hristina Jovanovic at the end of February, show that women have a greater number of the most common serotonin receptors than men. They also show that women have lower levels of the protein that transports serotonin back into the nerve cells that secrete it. It is this protein that the most common antidepressants (SSRIs) block.

“We don’t know exactly what this means, but the results can help us understand why the occurrence of depression differs between the sexes and why men and women sometimes respond differently to treatment with antidepressant drugs,” says associate professor Anna-Lena Nordström, who led the study.

The group has also shown that the serotonin system in healthy women differs from that in women with serious premenstrual mental symptoms. These results suggest that the serotonin system in such women does not respond as flexibly to the hormone swings of the menstrual cycle as that in symptom-free women.

“These findings indicate that when developing antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, scientists should evaluate their effect on men and women separately, as well as their effects before and after menopause,” says Ms Nordström.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

Explore further: Opioids and antidepressants linked to higher fracture risk in rheumatoid arthritis patients

Related Stories

Opioids and antidepressants linked to higher fracture risk in rheumatoid arthritis patients

November 5, 2017
Opioids and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a widely used group of antidepressants, are both associated with higher risk of osteoporotic fractures for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to new research ...

Does mother's mental health affect pregnancy?

September 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Three common mental health disorders—depression, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder—pose no serious threat to pregnant women or the health of their babies, a new study finds.

Study finds association between antidepressant use in pregnancy and diagnosis of psychiatric disorder

September 6, 2017
Antidepressant use during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of psychiatric disorder diagnosis in children compared to children born to mothers with no record of antidepressant use during pregnancy, finds a study ...

Sexual and social behaviour modified by serotonin system drugs

December 12, 2012
Drugs that bind to specific serotonin receptors in the brain can both improve and impair female sexual function in non-human primates. These are the findings of a study conducted by Leiden PhD candidate Yves Aubert and colleagues ...

Babies exposed to narcotic pain relievers more likely to experience withdrawal

April 13, 2015
Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a drug withdrawal syndrome in infants following birth, has historically been associated with illicit drug use among pregnant women.

Antidepressants and pregnancy: Women must consider the impact of drugs on baby, and of depression on baby, themselves

February 10, 2012
Upon learning they are pregnant, most women dutifully nix the alcohol, sushi and caffeine. But what about antidepressants?

Recommended for you

Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

November 17, 2017
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.

Molecular guardian defends cells, organs against excess cholesterol

November 16, 2017
A team of researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health has illuminated a critical player in cholesterol metabolism that acts as a molecular guardian in cells to help maintain cholesterol levels within a safe, ...

Prototype ear plug sensor could improve monitoring of vital signs

November 16, 2017
Scientists have developed a sensor that fits in the ear, with the aim of monitoring the heart, brain and lungs functions for health and fitness.

Ancient enzyme could boost power of liquid biopsies to detect and profile cancers

November 16, 2017
Scientists are developing a set of medical tests called liquid biopsies that can rapidly detect the presence of cancers, infectious diseases and other conditions from only a small blood sample. Researchers at The University ...

FDA to crack down on risky stem cell offerings

November 16, 2017
U.S. health authorities announced plans Thursday to crack down on doctors pushing stem cell procedures that pose the gravest risks to patients amid an effort to police a burgeoning medical field that previously has received ...

Engineering the gut microbiome with 'good' bacteria may help treat Crohn's disease

November 15, 2017
Penn Medicine researchers have singled out a bacterial enzyme behind an imbalance in the gut microbiome linked to Crohn's disease. The new study, published online this week in Science Translational Medicine, suggests that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.