Serotonin Regulates Brain’s Response to Anger


Low levels of serotonin in the brain make it difficult for a person to control anger, reveals a new study. Serotonin levels are affected by hunger and stress, scientists say. This study was done by researchers at Cambridge University in Britain. They found that low serotonin levels affect the brain’s ability to control strong emotions evoked by anger.

Low Serotonin Levels are Dangerous
Previous research has revealed that low serotonin levels make a person more aggressive. The latest research has been published in Biological Psychiatry journal. The researchers believe their findings will help to develop treatments for psychological disorders involving aggression and violence.

The Study
In the study, volunteers’ diet was manipulated to alter serotonin levels. This was done either by giving them foods without tryptophan which builds serotonin in the brain, or foods with normal tryptophan amount. Then, the researchers scanned the brains of the volunteers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) even as the latter viewed neutral, sad and angry faces.

The Findings
The researchers found that low serotonin levels weakened communication between brain regions compared to when the volunteers had normal serotonin levels. They also used a questionnaire to find out which volunteers were naturally aggressive. The researchers found that in these aggressive people, brain communication was weaker with fall in serotonin levels.

Practical Applications of the Findings
The researchers say even though healthy volunteers were used in the study, their findings can be applied for many psychiatric disorders. For instance, patients suffering from a condition called intermittent explosive disorder (IED) exhibit intense and uncontrollable episodes of violence which can be triggered by cues like angry facial expressions. The researchers say their findings can help the development of effective treatments for mental disorders like IED and other ailments.

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