Discovery of a brain pathway may help with more effective treatment for depression

Discovery of a brain pathway may help with more effective treatment for depression

Not all antidepressants are effective in alleviating depression, thus, necessitating the need to look for alternative ways to treat depression. Most antidepressants activate adult hippocampal neurogenesis, but the factors responsible for growth and development of tissue coupled with modulation in behavior still need clarity.

Scientists are currently focusing on non-pervasive and effective methods to treat depression. Pursuant to the objective, a team of researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has found a new pathway in the brain that can help reduce depression. The scientists of the study, titled “Hippocampal bone morphogenetic protein signaling mediates behavioral effects of antidepressant treatment,” aimed at a detailed understanding of how antidepressants work in the brain.

Stressing on the need to find new drugs that would provide relief to people not benefiting from the existing drugs, first author of the study Sarah Brooker, an M.D./Ph.D. student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said, “Identifying new pathways that can be targeted for drug design is an important step forward in improving the treatment of depressive disorders.”

The study, published online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in October 2016, found that antidepressants like Prozac and tricyclics earmark a pathway in the hippocampus, identified as the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway. The antidepressants were found to block this pathway, thus, stimulating stem cells to produce increased number of neurons involved in mood and memory formation.

Protein Noggin more effective in blocking BMP pathway

The researchers experimented using brain protein Noggin on depressed mice. Noggin is more effective than Prozac or tricyclics in blocking the BMP pathway, thereby, stimulating new neurons. For research purposes, Noggin was injected into the mice after which the researchers looked at its impact on mood by testing them for signs of depression and overtly anxious behavior. Depressed mice tend to hang hopelessly when held by the tail than attempting to get upright.

After having been administered Noggin, the mice tried to lift themselves up revealing a decrease in depression level as compared with un-injected mice. When the mice were put in a maze with both secluded and open spaces, those injected with Noggin showed less nervousness than the mice in the control group. The trial was conducted as the scientists were not sure about the antidepressant effect of Noggin on the brain.

Stressing on the findings, senior study author Jack Kessler, a professor of neurology at Feinberg and a Northwestern Medicine neurologist, said, “Our findings may not only help to understand the causes of depression, but also may provide a new biochemical target for developing more effective therapies.”

Road to recovery

Depression is a common cause of disability, affecting nearly 350 million worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says that an estimated 14.8 million American adults, aged 18 years and above, suffer from major form of depressive behavior each year.

An increasing number of people are falling prey to this disorder, making it the leading cause of disability in the United States. Physicians prescribe necessary medication along with behavioral therapies for treatment of depression. Available information on depression does not say much about biochemical changes in the brain that cause depression and also why some patients do not show much response to currently available drugs.

If you or your loved one is suffering from depression of any kind, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to get information about various rehab centers for depression in the U.S. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our representatives to know about one of the best depression help centers.