Elevated levels of glutamate in basal ganglia can correspond with both depression and inflammatory conditions. [iStock / janulla]
Basal ganglia - female brain anatomy lateral view

Evidence continues to build regarding the connection between depressive disorders and inflammatory conditions. Patients both with unipolar and bipolar depression, for example, reliably test positive for inflammatory markers in blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

A report published in Molecular Psychiatry online hints at potential treatment pathways.

A team from Emory University School of Medicine has been looking at information coming out of the field that links rapid, successful treatment with drugs that inhibit the brain’s ability to process glutamate, such as ketamine. Their research shows that patients that exhibited both systemic inflammation and chronic depression also tested as having elevated glutamate levels in the region of the brain corresponding to motivation.

Glutamate is an essential chemical for neuronal communication and brain health, but at significantly elevated levels it can create a toxic environment for both neurons and glia, destroying their ability to function. These toxic environments—caused by inflammatory mechanisms—may be the cause of continued depression in some patients.

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