Serotonin and stress coping

Behav Brain Res. 2015 Jan 15:277:58-67. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.07.052. Epub 2014 Aug 6.


Coping is the necessary outcome of any stressful situation and the major determinant of stress resilience. Coping strategies can be divided into two broad categories, based on the presence (active) or absence (passive) of attempts to act upon the stressor. The role of brain serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) in coping behavior that is emerging from studies in animals and humans is the subject of this article. We have focused attention on studies that consider the coping behavior exhibited when the individual is faced with a new stressful experience. Coping styles characterize different species with different evolutionary histories, from fishes to mammals, and evidence shows that serotonin transmission in the central nervous system, with differences in transporter, receptor types and hormone or neurotransmitter influences is critical in determining coping behavior. Moreover, a major role of environmental challenges throughout the lifespan affects brain systems that control coping outcomes through 5-HT transmission. In particular early experiences, for their long-term effects in adulthood, and social experiences throughout the life span, for the effects on serotonin functioning, received attention in preclinical research because of their parallelism in humans and animals. Based on growing evidence pointing to a medial prefrontal cortex-amygdala system in mediating adaptive and maladaptive stress responses, we propose a brain circuit in which serotonin neurons in the dorsal raphe depending on the CRF (corticotropin releasing factor) regulatory action engage a prefrontal cortical-amygdala pathway through 5-HT1A receptors, GABA and Glutamate to moderate coping behavior.

Keywords: 5-HT; Amygdala; Coping style; Prefrontal cortex; Resilience; Stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Serotonin
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone