According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), almost seven percent of the U.S. adult population is diagnosed with depression. Anyone with a mental illness like depression knows how tricky it can be to find the right treatment or combination of treatments to effectively eliminate the symptoms associated with the illness. An article in the Los Angeles (L.A.) Times published on January 31st featured a number of new treatments (or soon-to-be-available treatments) whose development has been supported by the Foundation’s NARSAD Grants.
Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., President of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, told the L.A. Times that the good news is that there is much work in progress. Ketamine, for example, has been shown to rapidly reduce depression symptoms in patients who have a treatment-resistant form of the psychiatric illness. Carlos A. Zarate, M.D., Chief of the Section on the Neurobiology and Treatment of Mood Disorders and Chief of the Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch at the NIMH used a NARSAD Independent Investigator Grant to lead a ground-breaking study with ketamine showing that a majority of patients, all with treatment-resistant forms of depression, found relief from their symptoms within hours of treatment, compared to the several weeks often required for traditional antidepressant medications to take effect. Watch a Meet the Scientist webinar featuring Dr. Zarate, titled “Ketamine & Next Generation Therapies.”
Another treatment mentioned in the article is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). With the help of two NARSAD Grants, Mark S. George, M.D., from the Medical University of South Carolina, developed TMS, a new kind of non-invasive brain stimulation that uses electrical and magnetic stimulation to modulate brain circuits and change brain activity in resistant depression. He was unable to find other funding sources, but with the NARSAD Grant support, developed TMS and it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat resistant depression in 2008. It is currently helping hundreds of patients each year recover from major depression. Watch a Meet the Scientist webinar featuring Dr. George, titled “New Advances With Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation.”
The article also presents the experimental method known as deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS was developed in the late 1980s; however, it was not tested as a potential treatment for resistant depression until Helen Mayberg, M.D., from Emory University, used a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grant in 2003 to do pilot studies with severely depressed patients. In DBS, a pair of electrodes is implanted in the brain and connected by wires to a pair of pulsing devices in the chest (which is why it is sometimes described as a pacemaker for the brain). The electrodes emit a sort of jamming signal to brain circuits thought to be involved in depression, while leaving other circuits intact. This method is showing great promise in clinical trials to treat resistant depression, bipolar depression and other brain and behavior disorders. Watch a Meet the Scientist webinar featuring Dr. Mayberg, titled “Deep Brain Stimulation and Depression: A Decade of Progress.”
Read the article from the L.A. Times for more information about the future of depression treatments.