Serotonin is important for the control of breathing by the brainstem. ” Serotonin-producing cells in the mouse brain play an essential role in maintaining a healthy balance in body temperature and breathing. The finding might help to shed light on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other disorders linked to abnormal serotonin activity.” Science, 2011 Jul 29;333(6042):637-42. doi: 10.1126/science.1205295 , Impaired Respiratory and Body Temperature Control Upon Acute Serotonergic Neuron Inhibition, Russell S Ray 1, Andrea E Corcoran, Rachael D Brust, Jun Chul Kim, George B Richerson, Eugene Nattie, Susan M Dymeck
The other disorders linked to human abnormal serotonin activity include depression and most neuropsychiatric illnesses [ in HUMANS] . Serotonin and Mental Disorders: A Concise Review on Molecular Neuroimaging Evidence Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. 2014 Dec; 12(3): 196–202. Published online 2014 Dec 26. doi: 10.9758/cpn.2014.12.3.196PMCID: PMC4293164PMID: 25598822 Shih-Hsien Lin,1,2Lan-Ting Lee,1 and Yen Kuang Yang1,2
Serotonin production by the brain stem has been found to specifically to affect breathing in mice and humans. Changes to serotonin production in the brain can occur at birth, like sudden infant death syndrome or at any point during life , like the development of sleep apnea. It is complicated and we have much to learn about breathing and serotonin production in the brain. THE ROLE OF SEROTONIN IN RESPIRATORY FUNCTION AND DYSFUNCTION Respir Physiol Neurobiol. Gérard Hilaire,1Nicolas Voituron,1Clément Menuet,1Ronaldo M. Ichiyama,2Hari H. Subramanian,2 and Mathias Dutschmann2,* Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 Nov 30.Published in final edited form as:Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2010 Nov 30; 174(1-2): 76–88. Published online 2010 Aug 27. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2010.08.017PMCID: PMC2993113NIHMSID: NIHMS243615PMID: 20801236
Paula was given a serotonin booster when she lost her mind in her so-called attack of “mental” depression. It took over a year to work and over 15 years to work consistently. It is possible that the serotonin booster helped repair structures in the brain that were damaged when Paula’s normal breathing became too weak to move air in and out effectively enough. It is possible that Paxil and other serotonin boosters work because they help strengthen breathing and ventilation in complex ways we do not understand yet. Serotonin, over the long term, may reduce hypercapnia due to ventilation muscle failure, therefore improving both mood and mind. Since Paxil is so slow to work and has too many side effects, we have to look for better ways to help patients more quickly and safely.
Plus we need to test the hypothesis I’ve just proposed. Given that serotonin and breathing are biologically linked, does serotonin improve breathing over time. Is this why S.S.R.I. drugs work as antidepressants? Because they restore adequate breathing effort? And are there better ways to accomplish this if it turns out to be a valid hypothesis?
Paula’s breathing remained as slow as before, but over the course of the year, became deeper and stronger with the serotonin booster. She found that she could breathe out more completely with the help of her abdominal muscles to push the air out of the lungs as much as possible. This helped her to inhale more powerfully and take in more air. Today her breathing rate is the same 5 breathes per minute but those 5 breathes now consistently circulate a large amount of air- enough, it seems, to have regained the function of her mind [and normal function of her body temperature which also returned to normal].