2001 Breakthrough: Using fMRI Technology, NARSAD Grantee Shows How Antidepressants Correct Abnormal Brain Function

Yvette Sheline, M.D. - Brain & behavior research expert on depression
Yvette Sheline, M.D.

In 1998, Yvette Sheline, M.D. received a NARSAD Grant for a project titled “Affect Induced Activation of the Amygdala in Major Depression.” The results of this project, published in 2001, demonstrated that antidepressants correct abnormal brain function by reducing limbic over-activation and prefrontal cortex under-activation to alleviate symptoms of depression.

Dr. Sheline had led earlier breakthrough research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that identified structural brain changes in the hippocampus and amygdala in depression, establishing depression as a brain disease. The results of the work were published in a paper in 1996 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and has become one of the most cited papers in psychiatric literature.

The NARSAD Grant-supported work was the first to identify amygdala over-activity to fearful faces in depression and opened a new field of fMRI-face experiments.

Read an abstract of this research discovery from Biological Psychiatry.

Read an abstract of a previous research study by Dr. Sheline that established depression as a brain disease.

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Please note that researchers cannot give specific recommendations or advice about treatment; diagnosis and treatment are complex and highly individualized processes that require comprehensive face-to- face assessment. Please visit our "Ask an Expert" section to see a list of Q & A with NARSAD Grantees.
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