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Cambridge Neuroscientists explore the role of serotonin in decision-making behaviour

New research, from neuroscientists working at the University of Cambridge, suggest that the neurotransmitter serotonin plays a critical role in regulating emotions such as aggression during social decision-making.

Molly Crockett, Dr. Luke Clarke, Professor Trevor Robbins, Dr. Tabibnia and Dr. Lieberman were able to reduce brain serotonin levels in healthy volunteers for a short time by manipulating their diet. They used a situation known as the ‘Ultimatum Game’ to investigate how individuals with low serotonin react to what they perceive as unfair behaviour.

Participants with depleted 5-HT levels rejected a greater proportion of unfair, but not fair offers, without showing changes in mood, fairness judgments, basic reward processing, or response inhibition.

Their findings provide insight into clinical disorders characterised by low serotonin level, such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and severe anxiety and suggest that patients may benefit from therapies that teach them strategies for regulating emotions during decision making, particularly in social scenarios.

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Posted on 06/06/2008

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