Depression: Caused by Low Serotonin? Not So Fast, Study Says….

From Neuroscience Research Techniques

The synaptic gap is filled by neurotransmitters like serotonin.

The synaptic gap is filled by neurotransmitters like serotonin.

Depression is the leading cause of disability around the world, and for several decades, scientists have believed that low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin was a major cause of depression. A new study in ACS Chemical Neuroscience questions that hypothesis, as the creation of serotonin-deficient mice did not lead to the presence of depression-like symptoms as expected. Researchers at Wayne State University found that although behavioral tests revealed that these serotonin-deficient mice were compulsive and aggressive, they did not show signs of depression. This indicates that the causes of depression need to be questioned more thoroughly so we can increase our understanding and so better therapies can be developed.    Journal article: Mice Genetically Depleted of Brain Serotonin Do Not Display a Depression-like Behavioral Phenotype. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 2014      Read more.

Big Pharma has convinced many people that the “cause” of depression is a “chemical imbalance”; specifically, serotonin deficiency.  I don’t deny that neurochemistry plays a significant role in mental health.  After all, every thought you think, every choice you make, every behavior you exhibit sends a wash of chemicals through your body.  It stands to reason that healthy thoughts, choices, and behaviors would facilitate a healthy chemical balance and unhealthy thoughts, choices, and behaviors would increase the likelihood of an unhealthy chemical imbalance.  But the situation is much more complicated than “take this pill, get this effect.”  Ultimately, meds can, at best, help control some of the symptoms of depression (which is nothing to sneeze at, I grant).  A cure can only be affected by changing one’s thoughts and lifestyle.

If you’d like to learn more about effective treatments for depression, anxiety and other emotional and relational problems, check out the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Catholic Telecounseling Practice.  Learn more at our website or by calling 740-266-6461 to make an appointment with a counselor.

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About Dr. Greg

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit www.CatholicCounselors.com.


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