The Science

April 2020

Depression is a common mental disorder and a leading cause of disability worldwide [1]. According to World Health Organization data, more than 264 million people globally are affected by depression, and the disease burden has been increasing worldwide [2]. There are a number of well-established treatments for major depressive disorder (MDD), but they are only partially effective or even not effective at all in a significant number of patients [3]. Despite multiple treatment approaches, about 30% of patients with MDD do not respond to conventional antidepressants and remain symptomatic [3]. Another limitation of the existing antidepressants is a delayed onset of action [4], which can result in treatment cessation and increased suicidal risk in some patients [3, 5]. As a consequence, there is a critical need for new rapidly acting and effective treatment options for people with both unipolar and bipolar depression.

April 2019

Depression is a serious mood disorder with symptoms that include prolonged periods of sadness, hopelessness, and irritability. The symptoms can affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities. Depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination.

Chronic stress can lead to symptoms of depression. Studies in animals have shown that chronic stress also leads to the loss of communication between brain cells (neurons) in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain. The neurons lose dendritic spines, the small outgrowths on brain cells that receive signals from neighboring neurons. This leads to altered communication between brain cells.

Earlier this year, the FDA approved a form of the drug ketamine to treat depression. Ketamine is a fast-acting antidepressant that relieves depressive symptoms in hours instead of the weeks or longer that previous drugs required. In addition to being a major advance in treatment, ketamine provides an opportunity for researchers to investigate the short- and long-term biological changes underlying its effects on depression.

November 2017

Depression is the second most disabling condition globally.1 In older patients antidepressant medications may have lower efficacy.2 Electroconvulsive therapy has greater risks,3 and the efficacy of novel brain stimulation treatments is less certain,4 highlighting the need for new effective and safe antidepressant treatments.

Numerous placebo-controlled studies in adult patients have reported rapid, large reductions in depression scores after a single treatment of ketamine, but none has been undertaken specifically in older depressed patients.5 Current knowledge on ketamine in older depressed patients (aged ≥ 65 years) is limited to five case reports.

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