Is it possible to rapidly elevate the depressed mood? This has been a pressing question over the past 50 years because classic antidepressants, such as Prozac, are known to take weeks to reach clinical efficacy; combining medications to enhance antidepressant outcomes may take even longer, generally months. Mount Sinai has put forth enormous efforts to develop rapid treatments for major depressive disorder. Currently, ketamine treatment and deep brain stimulation are being investigated in clinical research and trials for treatment-resistant depressed patients at Mount Sinai.
Mount Sinai faculty has also been dedicated to the discovery of novel antidepressant treatments. As a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology & Systems Therapeutics, as well as the Department of Neuroscience and Friedman Brain Institute, I am one of the neuroscientists working to reveal new drug and brain stimulation targets in animal models for the rapid treatment of depression.
My research team revealed that dopamine cell circuitry, an important system in the brain that controls reward and motivation, displayed clear dysfunctions in a chronic social defeat stress mouse model of depression. We demonstrate that targeting and reversing these pathogenic abnormalities by the use of optogenetic brain stimulation rapidly regulate depression-related behaviors. Thus, depressed mood could be rapidly elevated, a finding that was recently published in Nature 2013, on which Dipesh Chaudhury and Jessica Walsh are co-first author.
“These new studies, although they were done in mice, provide many clues that could lead to new treatments. They pinpoint parts of the brain that are involved in symptoms, they show that those symptoms can potentially be reversed very quickly, and they tell us more about the chemicals that are involved,” reports Discover Magazine.
“With more detailed studies of these cells and this pathway, scientists may eventually gain a deeper understanding of how the human brain creates and alleviates depression,” says Laura Sanders in Science News.
I am hoping that the work of my team leads to increasing translational studies in the rich basic and clinical research environment at Mount Sinai to benefit depressed patients. As a cellular neurophysiology laboratory in the Friedman Brain Institute, I hope that the work of my research team contributes to the thriving and growing efforts of mood disorder research at Mount Sinai.
Dr. Ming-Hu Han is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics, with a joint appointment in the Department of Neuroscience. The Han Laboratory studies neurophysiological mechanisms of depression and alcohol addiction in rodent models.