Serotonin in anxiety
Just what is the placebo effect?

How can the human mind be self regulatory?

How much control do we really have over our anxiety?


Anxiety disorders plague millions of people across America, infecting their lives and creating a miserable and unhealthy view of themselves and the world. People with these disorders suffer from many symptoms ranging in severity from unnecessary worry to suicidal tendencies. In some cases, normal social functioning becomes impossible and life nearly unbearable. Many people seek help, others don't. Some are not even aware they have a problem, the disease having crept up on them slowly and subtly. They can be terribly unhappy and not even realize that they could have a better life. It's a sad state of affairs, and one researchers are working hard to remedy.

For years, anxiety disorder patients have been studied and subjected to various new and experimental treatments. Psychotherapy, hypnosis, lobotomy - practically everything has been tried. With the advent of neuroscience and all the technological wonders we have created, it became possible to study the actual functioning of the brain on the minutest level. Researchers discovered a very relevant link between serotonergic systems and anxiety. Upsets in serotonin levels due to any number of reasons including (but certainly not limited to) improper synthesis, poor transmission or lack of reuptake were implicated in anxiety disorders. Armed with this information, scientists are working to create drugs that act in serotonergic systems to create normality and balance and to ultimately improve the patient's quality of life.

Unfortunately, not all drugs work all the time for everybody. Not all our brains work in exactly the same way, and while this is wonderful for avoiding completely predictable conversations, it is often hard on drug therapy. Understanding the limits of drugs, a small number of researchers have looked to an interesting phenomenon in hopes of finding alternate methods of help. That phenomenon is the placebo effect.

Most data on the effectiveness of placebos in anxiety disorder patients have come from studies where other 'real' drugs have been tested. It has been found that sometimes placebos work equally as well as active medications in reducing the unpleasant symptoms patients suffer. But how is it that the mere belief one has taken a drug actually physically makes changes in the brain? That is the very question we pondered. On the path to finding an answer, we had to learn about a lot of different and seemingly unrelated topics and bring them together using clever analysis and creativity, for while there is evidence that this phenomenon does occur, there is surprisingly little literature and theory as to the whys and hows.

We researched serotonin and its systems, anxiety disorders, and how the two are intimately connected. We also gathered the small amount of placebo literature and looked at studies where placebos were used in anxiety disorder patients. After analyzing all of the pieces, we were able to speculate on how they all fit together. At this point, it seems impossible for us to determine the exact mechanisms through which the placebo effect works its wonders, but we've got some good ideas and have boldly gone where only a brave few have gone before.

We hope you enjoy following in our footsteps. The information is not for the faint of heart, so please take ample time to ponder our findings and join us in our speculations. We welcome any contributions you'd like to make. Please feel free to email us with your ideas and theories. It's a breaking field and we're right on the edge of it. Happy journey!

Worried the science information might be out of your league? Well worry not. Neuroscience for Kids has all the background you'll ever need. It's incredibly comprehensive and even more comprehendable. If you start to go cross-eyed in the following pages, just hop on over to pick up whatever tidbits you need. Don't forget to come back, though!

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This page was created by Ari, David, Miguel and Sarah in an effort to enlighten you. If you would like to learn more about these crazy characters and maybe even gain some insight into how this project came about, why don't you peruse through their diaries?

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