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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2012 Feb;36(2):786-98. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.12.009. Epub 2011 Dec 23.

The reciprocal interaction between serotonin and social behaviour.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Centre for Neuroscience, Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, UMC St. Radboud, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Serotonin (5-HT) is an ancient molecule directing behavioural responses to environmental stimuli. The social environment is the most powerful environmental factor. It is well recognized that 5-HT plays a key role in shaping social responses, and that the serotonergic system itself is highly responsive to social influences. This review aims to provide an overview of a selection of representative papers that significantly contribute to a coherent view on the role of serotonin in reciprocal social interactions. The studies here reviewed, selected using the pubmed search terms "social behaviour" and "serotonin", describe the effects of serotonergic gene variation and pharmacological manipulations in humans, monkeys, and rodents, and involve parental attachment and caregiving, social play, aggressiveness, cooperation, and sexual behaviour. We conclude that serotonin is positively correlated with sensitivity to social factors and modulates social behaviour in a 'for-better-and-for-worse' manner, depending on the nature of social factors. Simultaneously, these behavioural responses influence the serotonergic system, leading to highly complex bidirectional serotoninĂ—environment interaction.

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