Serotonin-dependent depression in Parkinson's disease: A role for the subthalamic nucleus?

Sonny K. H. Tan*, Henrike Hartung, Trevor Sharp, Yasin Temel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Depression is the most common neuropsychiatric co-morbidity in Parkinson's disease (PD). The underlying mechanism of depression in PD is complex and likely involves biological, psychosocial and therapeutic factors. The biological mechanism may involve changes in monoamine systems, in particular the serotonergic (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) system. It is well established that the 5-HT system is markedly affected in the Parkinsonian brain, with evidence including pathological loss of markers of 5-HT axons as well as cell bodies in the dorsal and median raphe nuclei of the midbrain. However, it remains unresolved whether alterations to the 5-HT system alone are sufficient to confer vulnerability to depression. Here we propose low 5-HT combined with altered network activity within the basal ganglia as critically involved in depression in PD. The latter hypothesis is derived from a number of recent findings that highlight the close interaction between the basal ganglia and the 5-HT system, not only in motor but also limbic functions. These findings include evidence that clinical depression is a side effect of deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN), a treatment option in advanced PD. Further, it has recently been demonstrated that STN DBS in animal models inhibits 5-HT neurotransmission, and that this change may underpin depressive-like side effects. This review provides an overview of 5-HT alterations in PD and a discussion of how these changes might combine with altered basal ganglia network activity to increase depression vulnerability. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Serotonin: The New Wave'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-399
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • Parkinson's disease
  • Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine;5-HT)
  • Dorsal raphe nucleus
  • Depression
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Subthalamic nucleus

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