Rita Allen Foundation Supports UC Berkley Research Findings that Could Improve Diagnosis, Treatment of Depression
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have identified biomarkers — genes and specific brain circuits in mice — associated with a common symptom of depression: lack of motivation.
The finding could guide research to find new ways to diagnose and potentially treat individuals suffering from lack of motivation and bring closer the day of precision medicine for psychiatric disorders like depression.
Depression is the most prevalent mental health disorder in the world, affecting around 9% of the American population each year, and is among the top causes of disability in the workplace. Depression symptoms can differ significantly between patients who have the same depression diagnosis, and the lack of a connection between symptoms and treatments is a main reason that about half of all people with depression fail to respond to medication or other therapies, and that side effects of these medications are common.
“If we had a biomarker for specific symptoms of depression, we simply could do a blood test or image the brain and then identify the appropriate medication for that patient,” said Stephan Lammel, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of molecular and cell biology. “That would be the ideal case, but we are far away from that situation right now.”
Now, for the first time, Lammel and his team have identified genes in a brain region — the lateral habenula — that are strongly turned on, or upregulated, in mice that show reduced motivation as a result of chronic stress. This brain region in mice is not associated with other depression symptoms, including anxiety and anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure...