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September 23: Dr. Serotonin

September 21, 2015

300hDr. Maurice M. Rapport, who helped to isolate, name, and determine the structure of the neurotransmitter serotonin (from “serum” and “tonic”), which led to the development of serotonin-uptake inhibitors and other drugs for mental health, was born in Atlantic City on this date in 1919. Rapport published his findings about the structure of serotonin in 1949; other researchers have identified its role in mood regulation, appetite, sexual drive, and sleep. Rapport also did significant research about cancer, multiple sclerosis, and cardiovascular and connective-tissue diseases. Much of his career was spent at Columbia University, Sloan-Kettering, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Serotonin serves as a chemical messenger between nerve cells that inhibits their firing; it is found primarily in the gastrointestinal tract, blood platelets, and central nervous system, and is thought to be an important contributor to our sense of well-being and happiness. Dr. Rapport died at 91.

“Initially, researchers focused on agents to block serotonin, which, by constricting blood vessels, causes blood pressure to rise. After researchers discovered its presence in the brain, and its chemical similarity to LSD, which mimics serotonin in the brain, they began focusing on serotonin’s role in regulating mood and mental functioning.” New York Times