Scientists revisit biochemical basis for depression

Symptoms of depression and anxiety can be induced in mice by increasing levels of acetylcholine, suggesting that depression may have different biochemical roots than previously believed, Yale School of Medicine researchers report the week of Feb. 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A quarter of a century ago, the introduction of Prozac changed how depression was treated. The brain that respond to the and is called a SSRI, or serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Today, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants are SSRIs.

However, the new study suggests depression could arise from disruption of a different neurotransmitter system.

"We have actually seen depression-like behavior in mice when there is a breakdown in a acetylcholine regulation," said Marina Picciotto, the Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and professor of neurobiology and of pharmacology and senior author of the paper. "We have also seen altered acetylcholine levels in the brain of people with depression, which shows that this is a good model for the human illness."

The team also found that they could reduce those same symptoms in mice by introduction of an SSRI. Picciotto said the findings suggest that it is possible that depression is not caused by disruption of serotonin signaling at all.

"Serotonin may be treating the problem, but acetylcholine disruption may be a primary cause," said Picciotto. "If we can treat the root cause, perhaps we can get a better response from the patient."

Related Stories

New model for probing antidepressant actions

Feb 18, 2011

medicines such as Prozac, Lexapro and Paxil – work by blocking the serotonin transporter, a brain protein that normally clears away the mood-regulating chemical serotonin. Or so the current thinking goes.

Recommended for you

The impact of bacteria in our guts

19 hours ago

The word metabolism gets tossed around a lot, but it means much more than whether you can go back to the buffet for seconds without worrying about your waistline. In fact, metabolism is the set of biochemical ...

Stem cell therapies hold promise, but obstacles remain

20 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—In an article appearing online today in the journal Science, a group of researchers, including University of Rochester neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., review the potential and ch ...

New hope in fight against muscular dystrophy

21 hours ago

Research at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology offers hope to those who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable, debilitating disease that cuts young lives short.

Biologists reprogram skin cells to mimic rare disease

Aug 21, 2014

Johns Hopkins stem cell biologists have found a way to reprogram a patient's skin cells into cells that mimic and display many biological features of a rare genetic disorder called familial dysautonomia. ...

User comments