How ketamine can change the brain to fight depression

New research in mice, which the National Institutes of Health supported, shows how ketamine can alter brain circuits, quickly redressing depression-like symptoms.

Previous studies have shown that ketamine — an anesthetic — can rapidly reduce severe symptoms of major depressive disorder, particularly the occurrence of suicidal thoughts.

However, researchers are still unsure how this substance acts in the brain to fight off depression or how to maintain its therapeutic effects in the long run.

Full story at Medical News Today

Ketamine reverses neural changes underlying depression-related behaviors in mice

Researchers have identified ketamine-induced brain-related changes that are responsible for maintaining the remission of behaviors related to depression in mice — findings that may help researchers develop interventions that promote lasting remission of depression in humans. The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health, appears in the journal Science.

Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, with approximately 17.3 million adults experienced a major depressive episode in 2017. However, many of the neural changes underlying the transitions between active depression, remission, and depression re-occurrence remain unknown. Ketamine, a fast-acting antidepressant which relieves depressive symptoms in hours instead of weeks or longer, provides an opportunity for researchers to investigate the short- and long-term biological changes underlying these transitions.

“Ketamine is a potentially transformative treatment for depression, but one of the major challenges associated with this drug is sustaining recovery after the initial treatment,” said study author Conor Liston, M.D., Ph.D., of Weill Cornell Medicine, New York City.

Full story at Science Daily

Critical receptor involved in response to antidepressants like ketamine

Effective treatment of clinical depression remains a major mental health issue, with roughly 30 percent of patients who do not respond to any of the available treatments. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have discovered a crucial receptor called mGlu2 that is critical to the mechanism of fast-acting antidepressants such as ketamine when used to treat depression.

This discovery into how this type of receptor in the brain works with fast-acting antidepressants is a critical discovery in treating depression, because existing treatments can take weeks before they are effective. A single dose of ketamine that is lower than the amount required to cause anesthesia within 24 hours can alleviates depression in some treatment-resistant patients.

Todd Gould, MD., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, together with researchers from the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program, discovered that this special type of glutamate receptor interacts with ketamine’s mechanism.

Full story at Science Daily

Psychedelic microdosing in rats shows beneficial effects

The growing popularity of microdosing — taking tiny amounts of psychedelic drugs to boost mood and mental acuity — is based on anecdotal reports of its benefits. Now, a study in rats by researchers at the University of California, Davis suggests microdosing can provide relief for symptoms of depression and anxiety, but also found potential negative effects. The work is published March 4 in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

“Prior to our study, essentially nothing was known about the effects of psychedelic microdosing on animal behaviors,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the UC Davis departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team. “This is the first time anyone has demonstrated in animals that psychedelic microdosing might actually have some beneficial effects, particularly for depression or anxiety. It’s exciting, but the potentially adverse changes in neuronal structure and metabolism that we observe emphasize the need for additional studies.”

Full story at Science Daily

Depression increases risk of early death in older adults

A research team designed a study to investigate the role depression symptoms play in an increased risk of death over time. The team also examined the role heart disease and stroke play in the link between depression symptoms and increased risk of death.

As we age, we become more likely to experience symptoms of depression. Research shows that depression’s symptoms can be linked to a higher risk for death. Yet often, older adults’ symptoms of depression may be missed by healthcare professionals.

What’s more, symptoms of depression have been linked to heart disease and stroke in middle-aged and older adults. Researchers suggest that the depression-heart disease link could play a role in the increased risk of death among older adults who have symptoms of depression. There’s also a known link between depression and deaths from cancer and falls in older adults. These connections might contribute to an increased risk of death for older adults, researchers suggest.

Full story at Science Daily

Women twice as likely to suffer from severe depression after a stroke

New research today published in the European Journal of Neurology has found that women are twice as likely to suffer from severe depression following a stroke than men.

The team of researchers from King’s College London followed the progress of symptoms over five years after stroke onset in 2,313 people (1,275 men and 1,038 women).

They found that 20% of women suffered from severe depression compared to 10% of men. They also found varying patterns of symptom progression; that long-term increased symptoms of depression are associated with higher mortality rates; and that initially moderate symptoms in men tend to become worse over time.

Full story at Science Daily

Post-natal depression in dads linked to depression in their teenage daughters

Fathers as well as mothers can experience post-natal depression — and it is linked to emotional problems for their teenage daughters, new research has found.

Almost one in 20 new fathers suffered depression in the weeks after their child was born, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry and co-authored by Professor Paul Ramchandani of the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.

The research, based on a sample of more than 3,000 families in Bristol, UK, also identified a link between post-natal depression in men and depression in their daughters as they reached adulthood.

At 18, girls whose fathers had experienced depression after their birth were themselves at greater risk of the condition, researchers found. The “small but significant” increased risk applied only to daughters; sons were not affected.

Full story at Science Daily

Dynamic Associations Among Motor Activity, Sleep, Energy, and Mood Could Suggest New Focus for Depression Treatment

Current theories of depression suggest that sleep problems, low energy, and low activity levels result from depressed mood, but a new study looking at interactions among these factors in people with bipolar disorder or depression suggests that the opposite may be true—that instability in activity and sleep systems could lead to mood changes. The findings, published online December 12 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, suggest new targets for depression treatment.

Previous research has shown the interrelated nature of many of the homeostatic systems of the body. For example, the regulation of motor activity has been found to be linked with other systems, such as those regulating sleep, activity, and emotional states. While dysregulation in these systems is often seen in people with mental disorders, it can be challenging for researchers to examine both the interrelationships between multiple systems and their directional influences using traditional clinical assessments based on retrospective recall.

Full story at NIMH

Letter from the Editor: Love your mind

Fairy lights are gracing the shop windows and Michael Bublé is dominating the airwaves with his rendition of “Winter Wonderland.” The holiday season is well and truly in full swing.

“Are you all set for the holidays?”

I’ve been asked this question three times this week — a classic example of festive chitchat in the United Kingdom. The short answer? No.

With fewer than 4 weeks to go, I’ve purchased a total of three gifts, including one box of candy that will undoubtedly be opened prior to its intended date of consumption and will need to be replaced.

Full story at Medical News Today

Why your neighbor’s holiday decorations bring out the Grinch in you

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Colorful lights line rooftops and windows. Bristly wreaths hang on front doors, and you may spot a glow up Santa and his fleet of perfectly arched reindeer on your neighbors’ lawn.

You might be thinking, “Now? Already? It’s not even December!”

There’s ample debate about how soon is too soon to put up this seasonal décor. A poll by Home Depot found that the best date to begin sprucing your home with the holiday spirit is November 24. One study suggests that people who deck the halls earlier are doing a type of community service by communicating “friendliness and cohesiveness with neighbors.”

Regardless of timing though, holiday decorations don’t always have such a happy-making effect on us. As so many cynical memes (like this one) reflect, these neighborly gestures displaying festivity and joy can trigger judgmental reactions from those of us in a more bah-humbug frame of mind.

Full story at NBC News