Gene linked to serotonin may hold key to social anxiety disorder

Researchers at the University of Bonn have conducted one of the most important studies on social anxiety disorder (SAD) thus far. According to Science Daily, a gene associated with encoding a serotonin transporter in the brain may play a crucial role in SAD. And interestingly enough, the serotonin transporter acts on the brain by reducing levels of anxiety and depression.

Individuals suffering from SAD avoid situations in which they feel others will negatively judge or criticize them. If chronic, the disorder could develop into avoidant personality disorder, a more severe form of SAD. It is estimated that one in ten people have been affected by SAD at some point in their lives. And therefore, researchers have initiated a massive amount of studies figuring out what causes SAD.

As published in the journal Psychiatric Genetics, a team of researchers at the University of Bonn may have stumbled upon something important. Dr. Andreas Forstner and his team of investigators analyzed the DNA of 321 participants; it was compared with 804 control individuals, with a primary focus to investigate single nucleotide polymorphisms, also known as SNPs.

SNPs are said to be the cause of genetic disorders — 24 SNPs were analyzed in which are suspected of causing SAD.
The study is still ongoing. Researchers at the University Hospital Bonn will be asking their patients questions about their symptoms and the severity of them. Additionally, the participant’s DNA will also be analyzed by taking blood samples.

So far, the link between genetics and signs of SAD are currently being investigated utilizing statistical methods.
However, data collected before the study suggests that the SNP, serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4, may hold clues as to the cause of SAD.

This gene encodes a mechanism in the brain that is involved in transporting the important messenger serotonin. This substance suppresses, among other things, feelings of fear and depressive moods. “The result substantiates indications from previous studies that serotonin plays an important major role in social phobia,” said Dr. Rupert Condrad, one of the lead researchers.

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