New depression treatment approach could provide relief within hours
- Researchers at the University of Maryland have idenitifed antidepressant compounds that appear to work in less than 24 hours, rather than the weeks that other compounds can take.
- The researchers conducted testing on mice, and gave them GABA-NAM, which selectively targets GABA neurotransmitters in the brain.
- The study is published in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.
The Maryland team has based its research on a specific understanding of depression -- that brain activity is driven by a balance between excitatory and inhibitory activity.
According to Scott Thompson, the team leader and chairman of the Department of Physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, when there is too little excitatory activity, the result is depression. Therefore, his team treated mice with GABA-NAMs in order to minimize the inhibitory messages sent to the GABA region of the brain, thereby increasing the balance of excitatory activity.
After the mice received the GABA-NAM treatment, within 24 hours their levels of anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure) decreased. Moreover, because treatment is very targeted, side effects were minimal. Despite the fact that this study is preclinical, the implications are profound, especially considering that SSRIs only work for roughly one-third of patients and when they do work they can take up to eight weeks to take effect.
Research on GABA-NAMs is continuing as researchers continue to try to crack the code of difficult-to-treat clinical depression.