The onset of attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder (ADHD) in childhood is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. A chronic deficit of serotonin (5-HT) at the synapse may trigger symptoms of ADHD. This review focuses on neuro-anatomical, experimental and clinical pharmacological evidence, as well as the genetic underpinnings of serotoninergic involvement in the etiology of ADHD. Neuro-anatomical investigations suggest that serotonin through the orbitofrontal-striatal circuitry may regulate behavioral domains of hyperactivity and impulsivity in ADHD. Studies from animal models of ADHD indicate intimate interplay between 5-HT and dopaminergic neurotransmission. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, as also non-stimulant drugs acting on the 5-HT system are, however, clinically effective. They impart less severe side effects in patients with no risk of addiction. Oral administration of l-tryptophan, the amino acid precursor of 5-HT, significantly alleviates ADHD symptoms. Given the multifactorial nature of ADHD, candidate gene and genome-wide association studies have suggested that serotoninergic gene variants are associated with increased risk of ADHD with each locus individually exerting a modest effect on overall risk.
Keywords: ADHD; Animal model; Clinical pharmacology; Genetics; Neuroanatomy; Serotonin.
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