Effective Depression Meds Find a Target

Testosterone therapy may counter depression in certain region of the brain

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Emerging research has shown a correlation between depression and low testosterone. Now medical experts in Florida say they have discovered the part of the brain which plays a major role in mediating the effects of the hormone.

There is a region of your brain called the hippocampus which is involved in memory formation and regulation of stress responses.

A new report in Biological Psychiatry suggests that this pathway, which helps you remember things and deal with stress, is a promising target for antidepressant therapies.

"Talk to your doctor if you think you are feeling symptoms of depression."

To come to this conclusion, doctors performed experiments on neutered adult male rats which developed depressive-like behaviors that were reversed with testosterone replacement.

In studying the rats, doctors found a region of the brain - called MAPK/ERK2 - that played a major role in regulating the protective effects of testosterone, said one of the lead scientists in the study, Mohamed Kabbaj of Florida State University. This portion of the brain must be functioning properly before the antidepressant effects of testosterone can occur, the study’s authors said.

"The finding has high significance because it provides for the first time information about the brain area and molecular basis of testosterone antidepressant effects," Kabbaj told dailyRx.

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, though men with hypogonadism - a condition where the body produces no or low testosterone - also suffer from increased levels of depression, according to the study. Mood can be improved with testosterone replacement therapy.

In results published elsewhere by the same group, testosterone has shown beneficial effects only in male rats, not in female rats.

"Although this work was accomplished in rats, it may have great significance for the general public because it provides proof that testosterone can be used as an effective treatment to improve mood in men suffering from hypogonadism," Kabbaj said. "Not only that, it also opens up new horizons to develop new drugs that target the molecular pathways altered by testosterone, and therefore we can have a more efficient treatment for hypogonadism with less side effects-compared to the numerous side effects of testosterone."

This study was published in the April 1, 2012 edition of Biological Psychiatry and was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Florida State University College of Medicine, and an FSU Developing Scholar Award to Mohamed Kabbaj. It’s authors reported no financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 4, 2012
Last Updated:
April 6, 2012