In addition to triggering a depression-like social withdrawal syndrome, repeated defeat by dominant animals leaves a mouse with an enduring "molecular scar" in its brain that could help to explain why depression is so difficult to cure, suggest researchers funded by the National Institutes of Healths (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
In mice exposed to this animal model of depression, silencer molecules turned off a gene for a key protein in the brains hippocampus. By activating a compensatory mechanism, an antidepressant temporarily restored the animals sociability and the proteins expression, but it failed to remove the silencers. A true cure for depression would likely have to target this persistent stress-induced scar, say the researchers, led by Eric Nestler, M.D., The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who report on their findings online in Nature Neuroscience during the week of February 26, 2006.
"Our study provides insight into how chronic stress triggers changes in the brain that are much more long-lived than the effects of existing antidepressants," explained Nestler.
Jules Asher | EurekAlert!
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