Serotonin surges after three months of treatment for depression, research finds

© Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

A team from the Karolinska Institute found that some patients who recovered by accessing treatment for depression had increased levels of serotonin transporters.

This year, a new blood test was created to assess future potential for depression. And in January, a team based in the United States discovered how to use neuromodulation to “cure” severe depression, within 30 minutes.

The interconnected functions of blood, brain and depression hold the answers for healthcare professionals who want to help their depressed patients.

In their quest to learn more about how depression works in the brain, scientists have consistently found that low levels of serotonin are a catalyst for mental illness. In fact, many antidepressants work by blocking a protein that siphons off serotonin from nerve cells.

Now, a team from the Karolinska Institute has studied the brains of 17 “cured” people, who report that their depression subsided after significant cognitive behavioral therapy.

What did they find in the successfully treated brain?

Whether serotonin levels are not a fixed certainty.

A person who lives with low serotonin doesn’t have to stay that way.

The latest author Johan Lundberg, researcher in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Karolinska Institutet, explained: “Our results suggest that changes in the serotonin system are part of the biology of depression and that this change is episode-related rather than episode-related. to a static characteristic – a state rather than a trait.

“This discovery raises many questions about the function of the serotonin system in depression and opens up avenues of research that could challenge the dominant concept of serotonin and depression.”

10% higher after three months

They found that 5-HTT levels were 10% higher after three months of treatment, when 13 of 17 patients reported significant improvement in their symptoms.

The team measured 5-HTT levels in 17 people with depression before and after an internet cognitive behavioral therapy course. The measurements were performed with positron emission tomography (PET), a brain imaging technique in which scientists can measure the levels of different substances in the brain using radioactive tracers.

Interesting, but a lot more research is needed

Jonas Svensson, postdoctoral researcher in Dr Lundberg’s group, said: “One possible interpretation is that the serotonergic system does not cause depression but is part of the brain’s defense mechanism to protect against depression. One could hypothesize, for example, that the level of 5-HTT decreases when an individual is under stress, such as during a depressive state, and that the level increases or normalizes when this stress subsides.

“It is important to stress, however, that although these ideas are raised by our study, its design does not allow us to draw any conclusions about why 5-HTT levels are changing.”

Read the full study here.

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