Anaesthetic found to counter severe depression

May 9th, 2008 - 11:16 am ICT by admin  

Washington, May 9 (IANS) An anaesthetic popular with doctors on battlefields and vets because it allows one to be conscious without feeling pain could be the answer to severe depression. For the first time, images produced by researchers show exactly how the drug deactivates the part of brain (orbitofrontal cortex) that become hyperactive during depression.

Orbitofrontal cortex, located above the eyes, is thought to be associated with guilt and feelings of worthlessness and causes a churning stomach and a racing heart.

Earlier, studies in US also found depressed people easing up on their symptoms 24 hours after taking ketamine and continued to improve for two days after that.

Professor Bill Deakin of Manchester University, who led the research, said: “We were surprised to see it working on that part of the brain. There was some activity there but more striking was the switching off of the depression centre.

“The study results have given us a completely novel way of treating depression and a new avenue of understanding depression,” Deakin added.

Helen Mayberg of Emory University, who pioneered deep brain stimulation to stop over activity of orbitofrontal cortex, agreed: “This is a terrific finding . . . of extreme interest to our ongoing deep brain stimulation studies.”

The study sought to identify the sites of action of ketamine. The release of glutamate turned out to be important in ketamine’s effects and this could point to new quick treatments to get people out of severe or long-standing depression.

The university’s team administered intravenous ketamine to 33 healthy male, right-handed volunteers at the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility (WTCRF). Scans showed activity in the orbitofrontal cortex stopped immediately.

These findings were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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