Mood Disorders & Neurotransmitters

Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, cognitive function, memory, and sleep — all are related to how your neurotransmitters function. Your neurotransmitter genes interact with your lifestyle and environment to impact your risk of depression and other mood disorders. 

These articles dive into the scientific research on how genetic variants impact mood disorders and cognitive function. Please keep in mind that the information here is for educational purposes — and talk with your doctor if you have medical questions.  

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BDNF + Serotonin

Genetic variants in the BDNF and serotonin receptor genes combine to increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Learn more about BDNF and how these variants interact -- and check your genetic data to see how this applies to you.

Dopamine Receptors

Dopamine is a powerful player in our cognitive function – impacting mood, movement, and motivation. Genetic variants in the dopamine receptors influence addiction, ADHD, neurological diseases, depression, psychosis, and aggression.

Seasonal Depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized by recurrent depression with a change in the season usually in fall/winter for most. Scientists think this is possibly due to an aberrant response to light - either not enough brightness to the sunlight or not enough hours of light. Your genes play a big role in this responsiveness to light.

check your 23andMe data for serotonin gene mutations

Serotonin Genes

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is important in depression, sleep, and many other aspects of health. Learn how your genetic variants in the serotonin receptor genes impact their function.

Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Circadian Clock Genes

New research shows that depression and bipolar disorder are linked to changes or disruption in circadian genes. Some people carry genetic variants in the circadian genes that make them more susceptible to circadian disruption.


Wondering why your neurotransmitters are out of balance? It could be due to your COMT genetic variants. The COMT gene codes for the enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase which breaks down (metabolizes) the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

Modafinil Response

For some, modafinil works great as a medication for narcolepsy and as a nootropic. Others may have little response. The difference lies in the COMT gene variants.

Childhood Trauma and Altered Cortisol Levels

Exposure to childhood trauma, such as exposure to abuse, violence, or repeated stress, can have a long-lasting effect. Genetic differences in the CRHR1 gene are linked to elevated cortisol levels in adults who were exposed to trauma in childhood.


Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin and melatonin. Genetic variants can impact the amount of tryptophan that is used for serotonin. This can influence mood, sleep, neurotransmitters, and immune response.

Lithium + B12

For some people, low-dose, supplemental lithium orotate is a game changer when combined with vitamin B12. But other people may have little to no response. The difference may be in your genes.