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Ketamine's antidepressant effect explained

Potential fast-acting treatment boosts BDNF

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2:06pm, June 15, 2011

The anesthetic ketamine works against depression by quickly boosting levels of a brain compound that has been linked to the condition, a new study in mice shows. The research may lead to highly effective and fast-acting antidepressants that provide relief within hours instead of weeks, scientists report online June 15 in Nature.

Traditional antidepressants can be effective but often take weeks or months to improve symptoms. “You can control malignant hypertension within minutes; a bad increase in blood sugar, bad migraines, asthma attacks, within minutes,” says psychiatrist Carlos Zarate of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md. “Yet why in psychiatry should we be satisfied with, ‘Just hang on for a few weeks or a few months, and you’re going to get better?’ That’s not acceptable in my mind.”

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