Science/Tech

Ketamine Can Help Fight Depression, New Study Reveals

Recently, a new research done in mice showed that ketamine, a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anesthesia for an extended period of time, can easily alter circuits present in our brain, which in turn can quickly redress symptoms linked to depression.

Of course, this has already been proven before, with studies showing that ketamine can help reduce the severe symptoms of early major depressive disorders, such as the increase of suicidal thoughts. As great as this sounds, however, the researchers are still highly unsure of its long-term effects, or how effective is it really in “fighting” depression in the brain, or even how it does it in the first place.

Because of this, a team of investigators recently teamed up and attempted to understand it more and its effects in the brain through mouse models. The team was composed of researchers from the University of Tokyo in Japan, Stanford University in California and New York’s very own Weill Cornell Medicine, collectively.

To find out how it works in the brain, as well as understand the mechanism that helps reduce the symptoms of the mental illness, the researchers examined the mice, especially ones that show behavior indicative of the illness in question.

Specifically, the team focused on dendritic spines, which are small protrusions on dendrites. By definition, these dendrites are extensions of brain cells, which work by communicating among themselves. These spines then are the ones that “receive” the stimuli from other neurons. They then found out that the mice demonstrating depressive-like behaviors lost dendrites more significantly than the mice that do not exhibit such behavior.

“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,” Dr. Conor Liston said.

“Ketamine is the first new antidepressant medication with a novel mechanism of action since the 1980s. Its ability to rapidly decrease suicidal thoughts is already a fundamental breakthrough,” Dr. Janine Simmons, who explained the significance of the ketamine research, said. She also leads the National Institute of Mental Health’s Social and Affective Neuroscience Program, but she did not contribute to the study.

Loading...