Posted by: myautisticmuslimchild | March 4, 2011

Serotonin Plays Role in Many Autism Cases, Studies Confirm

Science News

ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2011) — Mouse models are yielding important clues about the nature of autism spectrum disorders, which impact an estimated one in 110 children in the U.S.[1] In labs at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, researchers are studying strains of mice that inherently mimic the repetitive and socially impaired behaviors present in these disorders.

Georgianna Gould, Ph.D., research assistant professor of physiology in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, is eyeing the role that serotonin plays in autism spectrum disorders.

Serotonin is known for giving a sense of well-being and happiness. It is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that acts like a radio tower in the brain conveying signals among cells called neurons. Thirty percent of autism cases may have a serotonin component.[2]

In a recent paper in the Journal of Neurochemistry, Dr. Gould and colleagues showed that a medication called buspirone improved the social behaviors of mice. Buspirone is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in adults as an anti-anxiety and antidepressant adjuvant medication.

Some genetic variations result in diminished transmission of serotonin between neurons. Buspirone increased transmission by partially mimicking the effects of serotonin at cellular sites called receptors.

Reactions to newly encountered mouse

Social interaction behaviors of the mice were measured by placing them in a three-chamber social interaction test and positioning a “stranger” mouse in one of the chambers. Buspirone-treated mice spent more time in the chamber with the stranger mouse than untreated mice and more time sniffing the stranger.

“No animal model is completely characteristic of humans, and we’re far from saying that buspirone is a treatment for behaviors of autistic people,” Dr. Gould said. “But this does offer further proof that serotonin is involved in a significant proportion of autism cases.”

Support from the San Antonio Area Foundation made the project possible. Co-authors of the journal article are Julie Hensler, Ph.D., and Teri Frosto Burke, M.S., of the pharmacology department at the Health Science Center; Lynette Daws, Ph.D., of the university’s physiology department in whose lab the work was conducted; and Robert Benno, Ph.D., and Emmanuel Onaivi, Ph.D., of the biology department at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.

2nd serotonin-related avenue

Dr. Gould now plans to study the impact of a diet rich in the amino acid, tryptophan, on the social behavior of the mice. Tryptophan is a biochemical precursor of serotonin, which means it is converted into serotonin during the metabolic process. Foods such as turkey are rich in tryptophan.

“We are going to supplement the diet of mice with tryptophan to see if behavior improves, and also reduce it to see if behavior worsens,” Dr. Gould said. The future study of tryptophan is funded by the Morrison Trust, a San Antonio trust that lists nutrition as one of its topics of interest.




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Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

  1. Georgianna G. Gould, Julie G. Hensler, Teresa F. Burke, Robert H. Benno, Emmanuel S. Onaivi, Lynette C. Daws. Density and function of central serotonin (5-HT) transporters, 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors, and effects of their targeting on BTBR T tf/J mouse social behavior. Journal of Neurochemistry, 2011; 116 (2): 291 DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2010.07104.x



University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (2011, February 24). Serotonin plays role in many autism cases, studies confirm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/02/110224121940.htm

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.



  1. Excuse my ignorance, but the way I see it, these scientific results don’t seem to carry much weight unless they could somehow prove that the mouse was autistic lol.


    • Thank you Neelu for your comment, i kind of knew that will be your response. Love the comment keep it coming

  2. The thing is, whenever I hear about serotonin, I think of a brother I know in California who has Lyme Disease. His Dr doesn’t seem that well informed about it and often confuses certain symptoms with anxiety or depression and keeps offering SSRIs. This brother has to continually remind him that medical tests carried out on him revealed that his serotonin levels are already HIGH and too much serotonin can be deterimental as well as too little. So I think these things need to be assessed on a case by case basis as what suits one person (or mouse) might not suit another with a different disposition or medical condition. I can’t help but feel wary of such findings.


    • many others do too Neelu, and this can not be generalized as so many other things. case by case is the way to go most of the time, everyone different and everyone’s needs are different too.

  3. It is commonly believed that depression is linked to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. An important chemical is serotonin as this influences mood. The amino acid tryptophan comprises one of the building blocks of DNA and is required by the body to produce serotonin. It is an essential amino acid, which means your body can not produce it and so it must be obtained through diet.-

    Go and visit our internet page as well

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