Serotonin is a vital substance produced in the human body which is indispensable for regulating mood and ensuring optimal mental wellness. It is a unique biochemical compound in that it functions as both a hormone as well as a neurotransmitter. Produced by the nerve cells and housed primarily in the digestive system, besides small reserves in the central nervous system and blood platelets, serotonin stimulates positive emotions, alleviates anxiety and depression and even promotes deep sleep. In layman terms, serotonin is dubbed as one of the four “happy hormones”, the other three being dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin.
Serotonin generated in the gut cells subsequently enters the bloodstream, where it plays a key role in monitoring bleeding, clotting processes through vasoconstrictor or vasodilator effects i.e. prompting blood vessels to become narrow or widen and relax. It is also responsible for inhibiting the flow of another neurotransmitter – norepinephrine from specialised nerve cells/neurons. Norepinephrine increases heart rate and blood pressure by triggering the cardiac muscles to pump more blood for the body’s energy needs and thus serotonin aids in keeping these operations under control.
Serotonin And Its Structure:
The molecule known today as serotonin was first discovered by Italian scientist Vittorio Erspamer in 1935 and upon realizing it was an as yet unknown and novel amine compound, he named it “enteramine”. In the year 1948, three American researchers Irvine Page, Maurice Rapport, Arda Alden Green detected a new substance in the blood serum that influenced vascular tone, thereby naming it “serotonin”. Eventually, it was revealed through experiments that enteramine and serotonin were the same substance in 1952. Serotonin is also termed 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT. In 1953, Betty Mack Twarog, another renowned American scientist along with Irvine Page showed that serotonin was indeed present in the central nervous system. Furthermore, Dilworth Wayne Woolley, a reputed American researcher proved that serotonin played a central role in mental illness which was explained in his book, “The Biochemical Bases Of Psychoses Or The Serotonin Hypothesis About Mental Illness” published in 1963.
The elemental structure of serotonin displays as an indoleamine compound. These are a class of neurotransmitters with similar core assemblies. Serotonin is derived from the amino acid tryptophan and is a biochemical compound made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen molecules possessing the molecular formula C10H12N2O and a molar mass of 176.215 g/mol i.e. grams per mole.
Functions Of Serotonin:
Serotonin performs many crucial functions in the human system, including:
- Uplifting mood and triggering happy thoughts
- Lowering depression
- Mitigating anxiety
- Ensuring proper wound healing processes
- Augmenting deep sleep
- Pacifying the mind and relieving stress
- Preserving emotional stability
Adverse Effects Of Imbalance In Serotonin Levels:
Serotonin deficiency is linked with a number of mental disorders. Low levels of serotonin in blood circulation indicate reduced availability of the neurotransmitter and hormone for the brain. This in turn induces depression, irritability, anxiety, angry moods and irrational thoughts of suicide, from excessive fatigue and sadness. Anxiety is yet another mental illness that arises from a lack of sufficient serotonin in the blood and brain. It invariably prompts undue stress, worry, nervousness, tension and fear in the mind, leading to restless feelings, sleeplessness at night and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Furthermore, inadequate amounts of serotonin result in neurological ailments such as schizophrenia, dementia and attention-deficit disorders, which are typified by hallucinations, partial to total memory loss and lack of concentration respectively.
An abnormally high level of serotonin prompts a condition known as carcinoid syndrome. This involves irregular tumour growths in the appendix, colon, small intestine, bronchial tubes in the lungs, sometimes even leading to heart failure.
Yet another malady that develops from excess serotonin levels in the blood is serotonin syndrome. This results from ingesting high doses of serotonergic drugs which eventually build up in the human body. Symptoms comprise mental confusion, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, headaches and agitated moods. Since massive concentrations of serotonin in the system can be life-threatening, this health anomaly requires proper medical care and treatment to restore normal serotonin levels in the body.