Serotonin and Human Cognitive Performance
J. A.J. Schmitt,
J. G. Ramaekers,
E. A.T. Evers,
W. J. Riedel.
In the past decade, experimental studies involving healthy human volunteers have revealed that manipulations of the central serotonin (5-HT) system can produce quite specific changes in cognitive functioning, independent of overt mood changes. Reduced 5-HT turnover is consistently associated with impaired long-term memory functioning. Low 5- HT function may also impair cognitive flexibility and improve focused attention. On the other hand, stimulation of central 5-HT has repeatedly been found to impair performance in a true vigilance task. Currently, there is little evidence for mirrored cognitive changes due to opposite 5-HT manipulations in healthy volunteers. Given the mounting evidence for a role of 5-HT in human cognition, reduced 5-HT function could be directly linked to cognitive disturbances in certain conditions, such as in depression and Alzheimers Disease (AD). There is evidence that stimulating (i.e. normalizing) 5- HT activity in depression may have specific beneficial effects on cognition, independent of a general relief of depressive symptoms, but this premise needs to be confirmed by larger-scale clinical studies. Recently, a potential role of 5-HT in the cognitive symptoms in AD has been identified, but there is insufficient data to evaluate the effects of 5-HT stimulation on cognitive symptoms in AD. It is concluded that serotonin is a potential target for pharmacological cognition enhancement, particularly for restoration of impaired cognitive performance due to 5-HT dysfunction. Further differentiation of the role of 5-HT in normal and disturbed cognition and evaluation of the effects of 5-HT manipulations in various populations is required to establish the full potential of 5-HT drugs as cognition enhancers.
Keywords: Serotonin, memory, cognition, depression, Alzheimer's Disease, cognition enhancement
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