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Depression diversity: Brain studies reveal big differences among individuals
Date:5/8/2008

in levels in the brain are linked to depression, but the importance of 5HT1a receptor concentrations in the brains of depressed people has been cloudy. Thats why Zubietas team chose to scan only people who had not yet received antidepressant medications, since some such medications may actually encourage the brains cells to make more serotonin receptors - and masking the actual level of receptors that the person has naturally.

In the study, 5HT1a receptor concentrations were markedly lower in depressed people compared with non-depressed people, in both the left and right hippocampus region of the brain.

But even among depressed people, the lower a persons the 5HT1 receptor levels were, the worse he or she scored on assessments of their ability to function day-to-day - and they less likely he or she was to get relief from symptoms when the researchers prescribed them a common antidepressant.

This finding of individual variation may help explain why in current depression treatment, some patients find great relief from a medication that doesnt help other equally depressed patients, says Zubieta, who is the Phil F. Jenkins Research Professor of Depression in the U-M Department of Psychiatry. He also holds positions in the U-M Nuclear Medicine division, and the Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute.

The other group of depressed volunteers - both depressed and non-depressed -- received PET scans with a tracer that allowed the researchers to see the mu-opioid receptors in their brains. These receptors are the gateway for signals sent by chemicals called endogenous opioids -- the brains natural painkillers - which are involved in stress response including response to pain.

Another name for the neurotransmitters that bind to mu-opioid receptors is endorphins, which have become known as a feel good chemical involved in reinforcing rewarding experiences. Illicit drugs such as heroin also act upon mu-opioid receptors, crea
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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