Serotonergic modulation across sensory modalities

J Neurophysiol. 2020 Jun 1;123(6):2406-2425. doi: 10.1152/jn.00034.2020. Epub 2020 May 13.


The serotonergic system has been widely studied across animal taxa and different functional networks. This modulatory system is therefore well positioned to compare the consequences of neuromodulation for sensory processing across species and modalities at multiple levels of sensory organization. Serotonergic neurons that innervate sensory networks often bidirectionally exchange information with these networks but also receive input representative of motor events or motivational state. This convergence of information supports serotonin's capacity for contextualizing sensory information according to the animal's physiological state and external events. At the level of sensory circuitry, serotonin can have variable effects due to differential projections across specific sensory subregions, as well as differential serotonin receptor type expression within those subregions. Functionally, this infrastructure may gate or filter sensory inputs to emphasize specific stimulus features or select among different streams of information. The near-ubiquitous presence of serotonin and other neuromodulators within sensory regions, coupled with their strong effects on stimulus representation, suggests that these signaling pathways should be considered integral components of sensory systems.

Keywords: auditory system; comparative study; olfactory system; sensory processing; serotonin.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / metabolism
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Serotonergic Neurons / metabolism
  • Serotonergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin