How serotonin balances communications that happen within the brain

on 12 April 2020
The hypnotic miracle

If you are experiencing challenges in life, feeling anxious, depressed or generally fearful, just ask a friend for help, they'll likely tell you to pull yourself together, that'll do it; right?  If it did, I'd be very surprised but good for you if it does! In reality, some go to a Dr others self medicate. The problem with either of these approaches, is, that the brain is a pharmacy but we are not pharmacists and without proper testing, neither is the Dr! So what can you do . . .

 Given the complexity and prevalence of mental health disorders these days, I find this to be an interesting article but I feel it is a tad one-sided! Serotonin is often associated with mood and behaviour and the serotonergic systems are a target of much of the pharmacological intervention in the treatment of anxiety, depression and/or mood disorders. For those who have used medications like an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), e.g. Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft etc. they will have their own opinion. If it worked, it will likely be a good one and if it didn't . . . C'est la Vie! But why do these drugs work for some and not for others? Maybe it is a consequence of the diversity of serotonin, it is both a neurotransmitter and a neuromodulator but it also has a peculiar relationship with its close cousin, dopamine. Both are monoamines and both play varying roles in reward (towards) and aversion (away from) behaviours. But the important thing to remember, very simplistically, is that they are messengers, merely the carriers of a two-way flow of information along very complex highways. Highways that are full of information and misinformation in the form of billboards (memories) that determine our direction, forward, back, left and right, up or down. When we are on the right path we seem to get somewhere and when we are not, we don't, it's as if life stalls, life starts to work against us; so what is the answer?

Most of the brain's serotonin is produced in the Raphe Nucleus, a part of the midbrain (brainstem). Serotonin is produced by the essential amino acid tryptophan, which means the brain cannot synthesise it, we can only get it through dietary intake. Foods like fish, meat, dairy, nuts, seeds and  . . . chocolate are all rich sources of tryptophan (chocolate???). Drs use SSRIs, SNRIs and other medications to regulate conditions like anxiety and depression. But the targeting of these conditions by assuming there is a dysregulation in one or more monoaminergic systems is an oversimplification because of the diverse effect they have in many brain regions. Generally speaking, the assumption is, if we increase brain serotonin levels, we can make life feel better! However, there are other brain regions, that when stimulated, can affect the natural production of serotonin. Two particular areas are the lateral (outer) Habenula (part of the thalamic nuclei) and the prefrontal cortex. Both of which supply excitatory stimulation to serotonergic and GABAergic neurons of the Dorsal Raphe Nuclei, thus, potentially uplifting mood and the general good feeling of life!

Strategies like using positive thinking, clear language and upward cognitive processing are well known and proven to create a mental uplift. Of course, when life is good, when the skies are blue and all the traffic lights are on green, hey, anyone can feel good and positive then! It's when things are dark or when there are more hills and hurdles than flats or when everything seems to be going wrong, then it's not so easy to feel good; let alone positive! That's when hypnosis can help you. Hypnosis communicates with the brain, via the auditory cortex and because of the brain's unique connections to sensory regions, it really can change the direction of your life!. The prefrontal cortex and the lateral habenula are the very regions that stimulate these powerful neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine). But it is the many places these neurotransmitters connect with that really make the difference. The monoamines are like electricity, in that they provide the energy source, the brain is the computer and memories are the code that determines how the computer works. In that context, hypnosis is akin to a special form of neural language (code) that rewrites the way memories express themselves, change the code, change the outcome! 

Essentially the brain encodes experience into memory, via sensory stimulation, and we respond to those memories in a way we call life. What we see, hear, feel, taste or smell determines how we respond to the memory of those sensory stimuli. However, memories can be changed, updated, upregulated and downregulated etc. For example, many people hate vegetable's as children but love them as adults. Many people say they hate things they have never even tried but once they try them, discover they love them, how is that possible? It is possible because the negative memory is replaced with a more positive one. The very same neurological processes are involved in the manifestation of an anxiety disorder, depression, low confidence etc. However, it is just a little more complicated than changing a dislike of greens into a liking, than it is to change a fear fo flying, water, spiders etc, into a liking or acceptance; nevertheless, it is possible to do so with hypnosis. You should try it!

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little or poor quality sleep and too little by way of mental and emotional clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious brain's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want the ability to make your life feel better, then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life! 

My objective is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into emotional experiences that may actually be happening but for reasons, we may never have imagined! If you want to know more about Hypnotherapy, why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

Our brain is steadily engaged in soliloquies. These internal communications are usually also bombarded with external sensory events. Hence, the impact of the two neuronal processes needs to be permanently fine-tuned to avoid their imbalance. A team of scientists at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) revealed the role of the neurotransmitter Serotonin in this scenario. They discovered that distinct serotonergic receptor types control the gain of both streams of information in a separable manner. Their finding may facilitate new concepts of diagnosis and therapy of neuronal disorders related to malfunction of the serotonin system. The study is published online in the open-access journal eLife on 7. April 2020.
Impacting on different streams of information in the brain

"The following everyday life example may sketch the task that the brain needs to solve," explains Dr Dirk Jancke, Head of the Optical Imaging Group at the Institute of Neural Computation: "Imagine sitting with your family at dinner, a heated debate is going on how to properly organise some internal affairs. Suddenly the phone starts ringing; you are picking up while the family discussion goes on. In order to understand the calling party correctly, the crowd in the back must speak lower or the caller needs to speak up. Thus, the loudness of each internal background conversation and external call need to be properly adjusted to ensure non-interfered -- that means separable -- information transfer." As in this anecdote, comparable brain processes involve serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, in common parlance called "Happy hormone" because it contributes to changes in brain state and is often associated with effects on mood. The study of the RUB team now demonstrates that serotonin participates also in the scaling of current sensory input and ongoing brain signals.

Controlling the neuronal release of serotonin with light
The RUB neuroscientists discovered the underlying mechanisms in experiments that investigated cortical processing of visual information. For their study, they used genetically modified mice in which the release of serotonin could be controlled by light. This mouse line was developed by the group of Professor Stefan Herlitze, Department of General Zoology and Neurobiology, to enable specific activation of serotonergic neurons by an implanted light fibre.
Combining this technique with optical imaging, the RUB team found that increasing levels of serotonin in the visual brain leads to concurrent suppression of ongoing activity and activity evoked by visual stimuli. Two types of receptors played a distinct major role here. "This was surprising to us because both receptors are not only co-expressed in specific neurons but also widely distributed across different cell types in the brain," says Zohre Azimi, first author of the study. Separable action of these receptors allows distinct modulations of information-carrying internal brain communication and evoked sensory signals. Low serotonin levels, as they typically occur during sleep at night, favour internal brain communication, and thus, may promote important functions of dreaming. "Dysfunction in the interplay of these receptors, on the other hand, harbour the risk of an overemphasis of either internally or externally driven information channels," says Jancke. For example, irregular 5-HT receptor distributions caused by genetic predisposition may become manifest in an imbalanced perception of the inner and outside world, similar as seen in clinical pictures of depression and autism.

Facilitating understanding of serotonin effects
The scientists hope that their findings contribute to a better understanding of how serotonin affects fundamental brain processes. In turn, their study may trigger future research in developing receptor-specific drugs that benefit patients with serotonin-related psychiatric diseases.

Story Source:
Materials provided by Ruhr-University Bochum. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
1. Zohre Azimi, Ruxandra Barzan, Katharina Spoida, Tatjana Surdin, Patric Wollenweber, Melanie D Mark, Stefan Herlitze, Dirk Jancke. Separable gain control of ongoing and evoked activity in the visual cortex by serotonergic input. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.53552

Cite This Page:
Ruhr-University Bochum. "How serotonin balances communication within the brain: Optogenetics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2020. <>