A podcast on National Public Radio, ‘Ketamine Relieves Depression by Restoring Brain Connections’ features Ronald S. Duman, Ph.D., a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council Member, who discusses why ketamine is so effective in treating depression—within hours rather than weeks.
Dr. Duman, a three-time NARSAD Grantee is the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Neurobiology at the Yale School of Medicine. In a recent review article in the October 5th issue of Science, Duman and fellow Scientific Council Member and Yale colleague, George K. Aghajanian, M.D., attribute ketamine's efficacy to its ability to restore the connections between brain cells damaged by chronic stress and depression.
Ketamine, which is used as a general anesthetic for children, in lower doses offers almost immediate relief to patients with depression as well as bipolar disorder. However, its effects last only a week to 10 days. Researchers believe that understanding how ketamine works in the brain will lead to the development of a new class of antidepressants that will be more effective and last longer than the current ones. "The rapid therapeutic response of ketamine in treatment-resistant patients is the biggest breakthrough in depression research in a half century," said Duman.
NPR also reports that a team of researchers led by NARSAD Independent Investigator Grantee Carlos A. Zarate, Chief of Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch in the Intramural Program of the National Institute of Mental Health has also found evidence that ketamine works by encouraging synaptic connections in the brain. Dr. Zarate won the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation 2011 Outstanding Achievement Prize in Mood Disorders Research for this work.