The role of the serotonergic system at the interface of aggression and suicide

M. Bortolato, N. Pivac, D. Muck Seler, M. Nikolac Perkovic, M. Pessia, G. Di Giovanni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Alterations in serotonin (5-HT) neurochemistry have been implicated in the aetiology of all major neuropsychiatric disorders, ranging from schizophrenia to mood and anxiety-spectrum disorders. This review will focus on the multifaceted implications of 5-HT-ergic dysfunctions in the pathophysiology of aggressive and suicidal behaviours. After a brief overview of the anatomical distribution of the 5-HT-ergic system in the key brain areas that govern aggression and suicidal behaviours, the implication of 5-HT markers (5-HT receptors, transporter as well as synthetic and metabolic enzymes) in these conditions is discussed. In this regard, particular emphasis is placed on the integration of pharmacological and genetic evidence from animal studies with the findings of human experimental and genetic association studies.Traditional views postulated an inverse relationship between 5-HT and aggression and suicidal behaviours; however, ample evidence has shown that this perspective may be overly simplistic, and that such pathological manifestations may reflect alterations in 5-HT homoeostasis due to the interaction of genetic, environmental and gender-related factors, particularly during early critical developmental stages. The development of animal models that may capture the complexity of such interactions promises to afford a powerful tool to elucidate the pathophysiology of impulsive aggression and suicidability, and identify new effective therapies for these conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-185
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - Apr 6 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HT receptors
  • 5-HT transporter
  • Impulsive-aggressive behaviours
  • Monoamine oxidase A
  • Suicide
  • Tryptophan hydroxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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