Serotoninergic regulation of emotional and behavioural control processes

Trends Cogn Sci. 2008 Jan;12(1):31-40. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2007.10.011. Epub 2007 Dec 19.


5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin) has long been implicated in a wide variety of emotional, cognitive and behavioural control processes. However, its precise contribution is still not well understood. Depletion of 5-HT enhances behavioural and brain responsiveness to punishment or other aversive signals, while disinhibiting previously rewarded but now punished behaviours. Findings suggest that 5-HT modulates the impact of punishment-related signals on learning and emotion (aversion), but also promotes response inhibition. Exaggerated aversive processing and deficient response inhibition could underlie distinct symptoms of a range of affective disorders, namely stress- or threat-vulnerability and compulsive behaviour, respectively. We review evidence from studies with human volunteers and experimental animals that begins to elucidate the neurobiological systems underlying these different effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Motivation
  • Serotonin / genetics
  • Serotonin / metabolism*


  • Serotonin