Small Preliminary Trial of Psychoactive Drug Ibogaine Yields ‘Initial Evidence’ for Powerful Therapeutic Potential in Traumatic Brain Injury

January 25, 2024

In an exploratory and preliminary clinical test, a team of researchers at Stanford University has obtained “initial evidence” suggesting that a psychoactive compound called ibogaine, when co-administered with magnesium, “could be a powerful therapeutic” to safely treat a variety of psychiatric symptoms, including PTSD, major depression and anxiety, and suicidality, all of which may emerge following traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Ibogaine, derived from the root bark of a shrub, has been used for traditional religious and healing purposes in Africa for centuries. Sometimes called an atypical psychedelic, the Stanford researchers prefer to classify it as an “oneirogen,” based on a Greek word that describes its main psychotropic effect: therapeutic dosing leads to dreamlike states of consciousness that persist for several hours and sometimes even longer. Proponents of the compound say it facilitates self-reflection and self-evaluation. These are qualities that in recent years have been attributed to psychedelic compounds such as MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD. Like those agents, ibogaine since 1970 has been listed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I compound, with no officially recognized medical use and with a “high potential for misuse.”

Read the full article at The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation »

Genetic “protection” against depression was no match for pandemic stress

But other factors appear to predict psychological resilience in study of first-year college students, adding to options for identifying anyone who might need more support under stress

December 16, 2023

Living through a historic pandemic while handling the stress of the first year of college sent one-third of students in a new study into clinical depression. That’s double the percentage seen in previous years of the same study.

And while certain genetic factors appeared to shield first-year students in pre-pandemic years from depression, even students with these protective factors found themselves developing symptoms in the pandemic years.

In fact, much of the overall rise in student depression during the pandemic was among young women with this kind of “genetic resilience.”

But the research has a silver lining.

By studying these students’ experiences and backgrounds in depth and over time, scientists may have discovered a way to go beyond genetics to predict which students might be more or less vulnerable to stress-related depression.

Read the full article at Michigan Neuroscience Institute »

Researchers reveal possible molecular blood signature for suicide in major depression

New approach integrates blood and brain data to identify potential blood biomarkers

May 5, 2022

A University of California, Irvine-led team of researchers, along with members of the Pritzker Research Consortium, have developed an approach to identify blood biomarkers that could predict the suicide risk of major depressive disorder (MDD) patients.

The study, titled, “Identification of potential blood biomarkers associated with suicide in major depressive disorder,” was published in Translational Psychiatry.

Results from the study demonstrate non-preserved blood can be used to discover suicide specific biomarkers using a novel gene expression approach and a gene expression quantification approach less sensitive to the effects of RNA degradation (NanoString). In addition to identifying individuals at highest risk for suicide, the results can help researchers understand molecular changes in suicide victims.

“These blood biomarkers are an important step toward developing blood tests to identify patients with imminent risk of ending their lives,” said corresponding author Adolfo Sequeira, PhD, associate researcher in the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior at the UCI School of Medicine. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to analyze blood and brain samples in a well-defined population of MDDs demonstrating significant differences in gene expression associated with completed suicide.”

Read the full article at Science Daily »

Landmark study reveals clearest genetic signals yet for schizophrenia risk

This and another large genetic study point to similar genes and biological mechanisms that start to home in on the root causes of the severe psychiatric disorder

April 6, 2022

In a landmark genetic study of more than 121,000 people, an international consortium called SCHEMA, led by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, has identified extremely rare protein-disrupting mutations in 10 genes that strongly increase an individual’s risk of developing schizophrenia — in one instance, by more than 20-fold. A second, complementary study in a larger but overlapping group of 320,400 people, conducted by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) and including the same Broad researchers, brings to 287 the number of regions of the genome associated with schizophrenia risk, including ones containing genes identified by SCHEMA.

Together, these studies underscore an emerging view of schizophrenia as a breakdown in communication at the synapse (the junction between neurons), and illustrate how different kinds of genetic variation affecting the same genes can influence the risk for different psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. The two studies appear together in the journal Nature.

“Psychiatric disorders have been a black box for a very long time. Unlike cardiovascular disease or cancer, we have had very few biological clues to disease mechanisms,” said Tarjinder Singh, a postdoctoral fellow in the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute. “As a result, we have lacked the necessary insights for development of much needed new treatments. Instead we have been iterating on the antipsychotic drugs serendipitously discovered more than 70 years ago.” Singh, who is also in the Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit (ATGU) at Massachusetts General Hospital, is a collaborator on the PGC study, and a co-corresponding author of the SCHEMA study.

“Identifying these 10 genes is a watershed moment in schizophrenia research because each one of them provides a solid foundation for launching biological inquiry,” said Benjamin Neale, another co-corresponding author on the SCHEMA study, a PGC collaborator, an institute member and director of genetics in the Stanley Center, co-director of the institute’s Program in Medical and Population Genetics, and faculty of the Mass General ATGU. “By sequencing the DNA of thousands of people, we are starting to see exactly which genes matter. These discoveries are the starting point for developing new therapies that treat the root cause of this devastating condition.”

Read the full article at EurekAlert! »

Is Insulin Resistance a Recipe for Depression?

September 23, 2021

Insulin resistance can make you more than twice as likely to develop major depression, even if you haven’t developed full-blown diabetes, a new study reports.

Initially healthy people who later developed prediabetes were 2.6 times more likely to come down with major depression during a nine-year follow-up period, according to the findings.

“The insulin-resistant folks had two to three times the rate of developing depression,” said lead researcher Kathleen Watson, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University.

Previous studies have shown a relationship between insulin resistance and depression, but this is one of the first to show that people who developed insulin resistance were more likely to become depressed later, Watson said.

It’s troubling news for a major segment of Americans at increased risk for diabetes.

Read the full article at U.S. News & World Report »

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