Serotonin (5-HT) shapes brain networks during development and modulates a wide spectrum of essential neuronal functions ranging from perception and cognitive appraisal to emotional responses in the mature brain. Deficits in 5-HT-moderated synaptic signaling fundamentally impact the pathophysiology and long-term outcome of neurodevelopmental disorders. Our understanding of how 5-HT-dependent modulation of circuit configuration influences social cognition and emotional learning has been enhanced by recent insight into the molecular and cellular mechanisms of synapse formation and plasticity. In this review, we discuss emerging concepts as to how defects in synaptic plasticity impact our biosocial brain and how recent findings regarding 5-HT's role in brain development and function provide insight into the cellular and physiological basis of neurodevelopmental disorders.
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