Sunday, November 01, 2009

Rethinking Antidepressants

Thanks to Henry for sending this link.

On cnet news, Elizabeth Armstrong Moore writes about research presented at this month's Neuroscience conference in Chicago:

Depression researcher Eva Redei presented research at the Neuroscience 2009 conference in Chicago this week that calls into question two tenets of depression science: that stressful life events are a major cause of depression, and that an imbalance in neurotransmitters triggers depressive symptoms.

Armstrong goes on to report that the research looks at the overlap of genes in RATS (not peeps) and notes that antidepressants work better for stress then depression and the genetic overlap between the two is minimal (--oh, why isn't Roy writing this, he's so much more eloquent than I am about the genetic stuff).
Armstrong goes on to say:

To test the long-held belief that stress is a major cause of depression, Redei looked for similarities between these two sets of genes. Out of more than 30,000 genes on the microarray, 254 were related to stress and 1,275 to depression. Only 5 were found in both samples.

"This finding is clear evidence that at least in an animal model, chronic stress does not cause the same molecular changes that depression does," Redei says. She is now looking at the genes that differ in the depressed rats so that she can narrow down targets for drug development.

Antidepressants are also often ineffective, Redei says, because they aim to boost the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, whose reduced levels have been associated with depression. But this strategy is now also being called into question.

It's sort of news to me that we thought stress "causes" depression. I guess I thought extreme stressors (as opposed to general 'stress') can precipitate depression in those inclined to become depressed. Many people suffer extreme distress without getting major depression and many people with histories of major depression weather severe storms without a recurrence. What is nice about this research is that it challenges us to think in new ways, and I think sometimes research gets hooked around theories that aren't definitely proven and creativity gets stifled. Anything that nudges that can't be bad....