Judging couples' chemistry influenced by serotonin

The judgements we make about the intimacy of other couples' relationships are influenced by the brain chemical serotonin, an Oxford University study has found.

Healthy adult volunteers, whose levels of serotonin activity had been lowered, rated couples in photos as being less 'intimate' and less 'romantic' than those with normal serotonin activity.

The results raise the possibility that lower serotonin activity in people with depression and other psychiatric conditions could contribute to changes in the way they perceive personal relationships.

The Medical Research Council-funded study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. '

Serotonin is important in social behaviour, and also plays a significant role in psychological disorders such as depression' explains Professor Robert Rogers of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, who led the research. 'We wanted to see whether serotonin activity influences the judgements we make about peoples' close personal relationships.'

Problems with social relationships, and a feeling of social isolation, are a feature of depression in some people. It is possible that alterations in brain systems – such as serotonin – contribute to these difficulties by changing the way people think about relationships with partners.