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Going Beyond Antidepressants

antidepressantsScience is constantly advancing, leading to new insights into the physiological causes of depression.[1] New insights lead to new treatments, going beyond the common antidepressant.1 This includes emerging medicines, electrical and magnetic stimulation of the brain, and long-term cognitive behavioral therapy for stress management.1

Depression is based on the theory that there exists a deficiency of neurotransmitters that carry signals between brain cells, and commonly used antidepressants are designed to increase the release of these neurotransmitters or block the degradation of a certain three: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.1 However, antidepressants are only successful in inducing remission in fewer than half of patients who are depressed.1

Therefore, research has begun to look beyond neurotransmitters and gain a deeper understanding of depressive disorders.1 New theories are emerging, focusing on differences in neuron density in various regions of the brain, the effect of stress on the birth and death of brain cells, and on the alteration of feedback pathways in the brain, as well as the role of inflammation brought on by stress response.1

Murali Rao and Julie Alderson have released a new report reviewing these emerging treatments.1 According to them, chronic stress is currently believed to be the leading cause of depression.1

Long-term stress harms the cells in the brain, which is closely associated with the development of psychological alterations and neuropsychiatric disorders.1 When a person is experiencing chronic stress, the nerve cells in the hippocampus begin to atrophy.1 With the hippocampus being a part of the brain that is involved with emotions, learning, and memory formation, depression is a result.1

However, there are several more theories being tested, all of which are highly interconnected.1 According to Rao and Alderson, “Integrating them provides for a more expansive understanding of the pathophysiology of depression and biomarkers that are involved.”1

Biomarkers are molecules in the body that can indicate depression.1 There are more than a dozen potential biomarkers for the disease, including monoamine regulators, proinflammatory cytokines, other inflammatory mediators, mediators of glutaminergic activity and GAMAergic activity, as well as regulators of neurogenesis.1

This leads to the testing of many new treatments for depression that may be offered in the future. They include corticotropin-releasing hormone antagonists, dexamethasone, partial adrenalectomy, long-term cognitive behavioral therapy, ketamine, and other NMDA antagonists.1 Also, deep brain stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and anesthetics are also being tested.1

As it can currently take several months for depression to go into remission, research is working on introducing treatment that has a  more manageable and successful timeline.1



[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Beyond Antidepressants: Taking Stock of New Treatments. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/02/18/beyond-antidepressants-taking-stock-of-new-treatments/66071.html

One Comment

  • Lulu

    February 22, 2014, 5:09 pm

    You are one straightforward writer. I enjoyed reading your article and taking in all the interesting information. I share your thoughts on many points in this content. This is great.

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