Imaging Biomarker Predicts Response to Rapid Antidepressant

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A telltale boost of activity at the back of the brain while processing emotional information predicted whether depressed patients would respond to an experimental rapid-acting antidepressant, a National Institutes of Health study has found.

“We have discovered a potential neuroimaging biomarker that may eventually help to personalize treatment selection by revealing brain-based differences between patients,” explained Maura Furey, Ph.D., of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Scopolamine, better known as a treatment for motion sickness, has been under study  since Furey and colleagues discovered its fast-acting antidepressant properties in 2006. Unlike ketamine, scopolamine works through the brain’s acetylcholine chemical messenger system. The NIMH team’s research has demonstrated that by blocking receptors for acetylcholine on neurons, scopolamine can lift depression in many patients within a few days; conventional antidepressants typically take weeks to work. But not all patients respond, spurring interest in a predictive biomarker.

–NIMH

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