Stimulating dopamine-releasing neurons immediately extinguishes depression in mice.
MIT and Stanford University researchers recently pinpointed brain cells that could be new targets for treating depression, which affects an estimated one in 10 Americans. By stimulating these cells to deliver dopamine to other parts of the brain, the researchers were able to immediately eliminate symptoms of depression in mice. They also induced depression in normal mice by shutting off the dopamine source.
“The first step to achieving a new era of therapy is identifying targets like these,” says Kay Tye, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and a member of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. She says she hopes the fact that this target exists “motivates drug companies to revitalize their neuroscience research groups.”
Many depressed patients are prescribed drugs, including Prozac, that boost the brain chemical serotonin. However, these require four to six weeks to take effect, suggesting that serotonin may not be part of the brain system most responsible for depression-related symptoms, Tye says. Finding more specific targets, rather than dousing the whole brain in chemicals, is the key to developing better therapies, she believes… Original Article »