Today, I will talk about how SSRIs work. SSRIs, otherwise known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are antidepressant medication which work by increasing the serotonin levels in the synapses between neurons in the central nervous system (CNS). So here, we have a picture of neurons:
The neuron before the synapse (the space between the neurons) is the presynaptic neuron, and the neuron after the synapse is the postsynaptic neuron. So neurons communicate with each other via the synapse. So what happens is that serotonin is located in vesicles located in the presynaptic neuron. And serotonin is then released into the synapse. The serotonin then travels across the synapse, which is unloaded from the vesicles from the presynaptic neuron, and the serotonin binds to the postsynaptic receptors, and this in turn continues the signal to the neuron postsynaptically.
After serotonin is released into the synapse, it is recycled and reabsorbed back into the presynaptic neuron via the serotonin reuptake pump located on the presynaptic neuron. So that is how serotonin is released into the synapse, binds to the postsynaptic receptors, and is reabsorbed and recycled presynaptically via the serotonin reuptake pumps. This thereby completes the communication between the presynaptic neuron and the postsynaptic neuron.
So when you swallow an SSRI, it goes into the bloodstream, then it travels to the brain, and it travels to the synapse. So the SSRI lodges itself into the serotonin reuptake pump, and hence blocks the reabsorption of serotonin to the presynaptic neuron. So when an SSRI blocks the reuptake of serotonin, there is an accumulation of serotonin in the synapse, thereby increasing the concentration of serotonin in the synapse, thereby increasing the binding of serotonin to the postsynaptic serotonin receptors, thereby increasing the signal postsynaptically.
So this is how serotonin is increased in the synapse when you ingest an SSRI. So this is how SSRIs treat depression and anxiety by this mechanism, where you have an increase in serotonin for serotonin-deficiency states as seen in depression and anxiety.
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