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Obscure brain chemicals draw new attention

When it comes to the chemistry of the human brain, dopamine and serotonin are the reigning stars. Like other neurotransmitters, they trigger and modulate the electrical signals that nerve cells use to communicate.

In comparison, the chemicals called trace amines are considered mere bit players. Now, a study reveals that people have genes that encode cell-surface proteins dedicated to responding to trace amines.

I think this is going to reinvigorate the field [of trace amines], says Beth Borowsky of Synaptic Pharmaceutical Corp. in Paramus, N.J. There's a lot of evidence that they may be involved with both schizophrenia and depression. Borowsky and her colleagues at the firm describe the genes for the trace-amine receptors in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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