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WSU researchers demonstrate rare animal model for studying depression
Date:10/24/2011

they say, the lack of animal models aimed at the core emotional issues of depression might be why little progress has been made in antidepressant medicinal development. They note that no conceptually novel drug treatments of depression have emerged since the accidental discovery in the 1960s that increasing brain neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and serotonin can alleviate some depressive symptoms.

Wright and Panksepp focused on a region called the dorsal periaqueductal gray, an area of gray matter in the midbrain that controls perceptions of pain, the fight-or-flight response and emotions of grief, panic and social loss. For 15 days, the researchers administered brief electrical stimuli to the region for a total of 30 seconds over a period of 10 minutes each day. For up to a month afterwards, they documented dramatic reductions in ultrasonic sounds that indicate a positive affective state.

Earlier work by Panksepp's group has demonstrated that the squeal-like ultrasonic sounds reflect a primordial form of social joy comparable -- and perhaps evolutionarily linked -- to human laughter.

The rats also exhibited higher levels of agitation, drank less sugar water and explored their surroundings less -- further indications of a depressed state.

Wright and Panksepp say they hope this kind of controlled, network-focused work opens a potential new era in the development of psychiatric models.

"In this way," they write, "we may be able to more precisely identify the types of brain systems that lead to various forms of depressive despair and sift through their neurochemical underpinnings for the most promising brain chemicals and vectors for new medicinal development."


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Contact: Jaak Panksepp, Washington State University neuroscientist
jpanksepp@vetmed.wsu.edu
509-335-5803
Washington State University
Source:Eurekalert

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