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Keywords:

  • anticonvulsants;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • 5-HT;
  • lithium;
  • mania;
  • mood stabilizers;
  • serotonin

Objectives: Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) was implicated in the pathophysiology of manic-depressive illness as early as 1958. Although extensive evidence has accumulated since then to support 5-HT's role in depression, relatively fewer studies examined its role in mania. The purpose of this paper was to review and summarize the current state of knowledge on the role of 5-HT in mania and its treatment. Methods: We systemically reviewed clinical studies of 1) 5-HT function in mania and 2) 5-HT in the mechanism of action of mood stabilizers, including lithium and anticonvulsants. Results: Review showed that cerebrospinal fluid, postmortem, platelet, neuroendocrine challenge, and tryptophan depletion studies provided some evidence to support the hypothesis that a 5-HT deficit is involved in mania and that enhancement of 5-HT neurotransmission exerts a mood-stabilizing effect. Conclusions: There is some evidence from clinical studies for the contribution of 5-HT in mania and in the mechanism of action of mood stabilizers. However, it is very likely that other neurotransmitters also play important roles. Future directions for research include 1) in vivo study of 5-HT receptor subtypes using positron emission tomography, 2) investigation of the interaction between 5-HT and other neurotransmitter systems, and 3) determination of the relationships between diagnostic subtypes of mania and 5-HT function and other neurotransmitter systems.