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Betty Twarog

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Betty Twarog
Born(1927-08-28)August 28, 1927
DiedFebruary 6, 2013(2013-02-06) (aged 85)
Alma materSwarthmore College
Tufts University
Scientific career

Betty Mack Twarog (August 28, 1927 – February 6, 2013) was an American biochemist who was the first to find serotonin in mammalian brain.

Life and career


Betty M Twarog was born on August 28, 1927, in New York City.[1] She attended Swarthmore College from 1944 to 1948, focusing on mathematics. While studying for an M.Sc. at Tufts College she heard a lecture on mollusc muscle neurology and in 1949 enrolled under John Welsh in the PhD program at Harvard to study this area.[2] By 1952 she had submitted a paper showing that serotonin had a role as a neurotransmitter in mussels. [3] In autumn 1952 Twarog moved for family reasons to the Kent State University area, and chose the Cleveland Clinic as a place to continue her study of her hypothesis that invertebrate neurotransmitters would also be found in mammals.[2] Although her supporter there, Irvine Page did not believe serotonin would be found in the brain, he nevertheless gave Twarog a laboratory and technician. By June 1953 a paper was submitted announcing the isolation of serotonin in mammalian brain. [4]

Twarog left the Cleveland Clinic in 1954 and continued to work on invertebrate smooth muscle at Tufts, Harvard and SUNY at Stony Brook.[2] In later years, at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, she worked on how shellfish evade phytoplankton poisons.[2]

Twarog died on February 6, 2013, at the age of 85 in Damariscotta, Maine.[5]

Impact in science and medicine


Twarog's isolation of serotonin in brain established its potential as a neurotransmitter and thus a modulator of brain action. Her discovery was an essential precursor to the creation in 1978 of the antidepressant SSRI medicines such as fluoxetine and sertraline.


  1. ^ "Betty M. Twarog Obituary". Book of Memories. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24.
  2. ^ a b c d Whitaker-Azmitia, Patricia Mack (1999). "The Discovery of Serotonin and its role in Neuroscience". Neuropsychopharmacology. 21 (2): 2S–8S. doi:10.1016/S0893-133X(99)00031-7. PMID 10432482.
  3. ^ Twarog, Betty M. (1953). "Responses of a molluscan smooth muscle to acetylcholine and 5-hydroxytryptamine". Journal of Cellular and Comparative Physiology. 44 (1): 157–161. doi:10.1002/jcp.1030440112. PMID 13211759.
  4. ^ Twarog, Betty M.; Page, Irvine (1953). "Serotonin content of some mammalian tissues and urine and a method for its determination". Am J Physiol. 175 (1): 157–161. doi:10.1152/ajplegacy.1953.175.1.157. PMID 13114371.
  5. ^ "Betty M Twarog". Maine-OK Enterprises, Inc.