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Exploring how serotonin causes depression

Research awardFellows Award programme

Funding period 2015 - 2018

InstitutionMount Sinai School of Medicine

LocationUnited States of America

Conditions

Could chemicals in the brain cause depression by affecting which genes are involved in different brain processes?

The project

We know the brain circuits that carry serotonin – a chemical that helps send messages between different parts of the brain – play a big part in causing and treating depression. But we don’t know exactly how – and this lack of knowledge is holding us back. 

So Dr Ian Maze and his team are considering whether serotonin alters the way the brain works through an ‘epigenetic’ process – essentially causing cells to switch different genes in the brain on and off. 

They’re looking at: 

  • How serotonin affects the way that genes in certain brain cells work and use information
  • Whether this process is different in people who have depression
  • Whether serotonin switching genes on and off is involved in depression
  • How anti-depressants affect what’s happening, so we can build our knowledge of exactly how they work.

The potential

Ian’s investigation has the potential to be a genuine game-changer. If we answer the long-standing question of exactly how serotonin influences depression, we move closer to developing new, more targeted treatments with fewer side effects and more consistent results.

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