A new factor in depression? Brain protein discovery could lead to better treatments

Study in humans & rats shows more physical changes in depressed brains

September 8, 2015

FGF9 Neurons
The green cells show where an injected virus was used to block production of FGF9 in rat brains.
Low. Down. Less than normal. That’s what the word depression means, and what people with depression often feel like. But sometimes, depression can mean too much of something – as new research shows.

The discovery, about a protein called fibroblast growth factor 9 or FGF9, goes against previous findings that depressed brains often have less of key components than non-depressed brains.

In this case, people with major depression had 32 percent more of FGF9 in a key part of their brain than people without the condition. In rats, raising FGF9 levels artificially led to depression-like behavior changes, and repeated social stress caused brain FGF9 levels to rise.

Taken together, the findings provide more evidence that depression is a physical illness. If FGF9 or its effects prove to be a good target for drugs, the finding could eventually help lead to better medications for the mental health condition that affects millions of Americans.

Read the full article at UofMHealth.org »
Read the publication abstract at PNAS »

BIOESSAYS: Circadian rhythms and mood

December 20, 2013

To understand the link between circadian rhythm regulation and mood disorders requires unification of data and tools across multiple levels of inquiry, from DNA variation, cellular pathways, neural circuits, their dynamics and plasticity, to behavioral outcomes. The circadian-mood connection provides an exceptional opportunity to pursue cross-level integrated analyses.

Watch the video abstract on YouTube »
Read the article at the Wiley Online Library »

Finding the roots of mood disorders: Dr. Jun Li

There is more to mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder and major depression, than meets the clinician’s eye. Fortunately, scientists such as Jun Li, Ph.D. are probing the genetic underpinnings of such diseases in pursuit of knowledge on which to build better therapies. Dr. Li, an Assistant Professor of Human Genetics at University of Michigan and a Rising Star Awardee in 2011, has just discovered 3 new candidate genes for bipolar disorder, and found a gene expression pattern underlying the disrupted sleep cycles of persons with mood disorders.

Watch the interview at IMHRO »

Nature: Neuroscience: Method man

Karl Deisseroth is leaving his mark on brain science one technique at a time

May 29, 2013

When Karl Deisseroth moved into his first lab in 2004, he found himself replacing a high-profile tenant: Nobel-prizewinning physicist Steven Chu. “His name was still on the door when I moved in,” says Deisseroth, a neuroscientist, of the basement space at Stanford University in California. The legacy has had its benefits. When chemistry student Feng Zhang dropped by looking for Chu, Deisseroth convinced him to stick around. “I don’t think he knew who I was. But he got interested enough.”

Deisseroth is now a major name in science himself. He is associated with two blockbuster techniques that allow researchers to show how intricate circuits in the brain create patterns of behaviour. The development of the methods, he says, came from a desire to understand mechanisms that give rise to psychiatric disease — and from the paucity of techniques to do so. “It was extremely clear that for fundamental advances in these domains I would have to spend time developing new tools,” says Deisseroth.

Read the full article at Nature