The cerebellar serotoninergic system and its possible involvement in cerebellar ataxia

Can J Neurol Sci. 1993 May;20 Suppl 3:S78-82. doi: 10.1017/s0317167100048575.


A review concerning the characteristics of the cerebellar serotoninergic system is presented. In rat, cat and oppossum, the perikarya of origin are located in the brain stem raphe nuclei and in other brainstem structures. The projections to the cerebellar layers and deep nuclei include synaptic connections, but also non synaptic terminals, especially in a diffuse cortical plexus. Serotoninergic receptors have been described: 5-HT1B in the molecular layer and 5-HT2 in the inferior olive. Serotonin exerts neurophysiological effects on several target cells, directly or indirectly, presynaptically or postsynaptically. A modulatory effect on Purkinje cells is well documented. In thiamine deprived animals, a specific serotoninergic cerebellar syndrome includes a selective degeneration of the serotoninergic cerebellar system, an increase of the 5-HIAA cerebellar values and an exaggerated serotoninergic turnover. In human heredoataxias (Friedreich's ataxia and cerebellar cortical atrophy), serotoninergic disturbances have been observed in the CSF, including low 5-HIAA values and an increased serotoninergic turnover. Therapeutic results have been obtained with L-5-HTP, a precursor of serotonin, in several conditions presenting cerebellar ataxia. L-5-HTP resistance of olivopontocerebellar atrophies may be explained by the destruction of serotonin-sensitive target cells, especially Purkinje cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / physiopathology*
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Opossums
  • Rats
  • Serotonin / physiology*


  • Serotonin