Serotonergic modulation of the limbic system

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2006;30(2):203-14. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.06.007. Epub 2005 Sep 12.


The limbic system is composed of cortical as well as subcortical structures, which are intimately interconnected. The resulting macrostructure is responsible for the generation and expression of motivational and affective states. Especially high levels of serotonin are found in limbic forebrain structures. Serotonin projections to these structures, which arise from serotonergic cell body groups in the midbrain, form a dense plexus of axonal processes. In many areas of the limbic system, serotonergic neurotransmission can best be described as paracrine or volume transmission, and thus serotonin is believed to play a neuromodulatory role in the brain. Serotonergic projections to limbic structures, arising primarily from the dorsal and median raphe nuclei, compose two distinct serotonergic systems differing in their topographic organization, electrophysiological characteristics, morphology, as well as sensitivity to neurotoxins and perhaps psychoactive or therapeutic agents. These differences may be extremely important in understanding the role of these two serotonergic systems in normal brain function and in mental illness. Central serotonergic neurons or receptors are targets for a variety of therapeutic agents used in the treatment of disorders of the limbic system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiology*
  • Limbic System / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Serotonin / physiology*


  • Serotonin