Serotonin to Boost Memory

 In Naturopathic News

Node Smith, ND

A study was recently published in the journal Neuron, which identified a serotonergic neural pathway that stimulates memory.1 The research was conducted at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CIUMC).

Serotonin Function and Memory Formation

The research primarily analyzed what is happening with serotonin within the hippocampus during memory formation. The hippocampus is a crucial area of the brain for the creation of new memories. Particularly, communication with the CA1 region of the hippocampus gives a basis for memory. It has been known that the hippocampus receives a fair amount of serotonin, however how and what the effect of this neurotransmitter has on memory formation has not been flushed out.

The idea to look closer at the role of serotonin in this region of the brain came from finding that certain drugs could modulate the 5-HT4 receptor function within the CA1 region of the hippocampus, thus enhancing memory.

Optogenetic technology

Using optogenetic technology, which utilizes light stimuli to inhibit or activate neurons, the researchers were able to analyze how specific serotonergic pathways targeting the CA1 region of the hippocampus impact overall neuronal communication, as well as memory and behavior in a mouse model. What was found was that neuronal communication within the CA1 region as well as spatial memory was enhanced in a dose dependent manner when serotonin was released. Blocking this pathway resulted in an impairment of spatial memory. The conclusion from this is that serotonin is not only used for enhancing memory formation, but crucial for normal memory function as well.


  1. Teixeira, Catia M. et al. Hippocampal 5-HT Input Regulates Memory Formation and Schaffer Collateral Excitation. Neuron, May 2018.
Image Copyright: <a href=’’>Spectral / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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