Study Examines Connection of Stress, Anxiety and Depression in the Brain

Is there a biological link between stress, anxiety and depression? Researchers at the Robarts Research Institute and the University of Western Ontario think so, as presented in this recent Science Daily post. They believe that by identifying the connecting mechanism in the brain, the research demonstrates exactly how stress and anxiety can lead to depression.

This study reveals a small molecular inhibitor developed by Stephen Ferguson of Robarts Research Institute, which could provide a new and better way to treat anxiety, depression and other related disorders. Researchers in this process used a behavioral mouse model and a series of molecular experiments to reveal the connection pathway and test the new inhibitor.

"Our findings suggest there may be an entire new generation of drugs and drug targets that can be used to selectively target depression, and therefore treat it more effectively, " says Ferguson, the director of the Molecular Brain Research Group at Robarts. "We’ve gone from mechanism to mouse, and the next step is to see whether or not we can take the inhibitor we developed, and turn it into a pharmaceutical agent."

The study included a linking mechanism that involves the interaction between corticotrophin releasing factor receptor 1 (CRFR1) and specific types of serotonin receptors (5-HTRs). The study revealed that CRFR1 works to increase the number of 5-HTRs on cell surfaces in the brain, which can lead to abnormal brain signaling.

As CRFR1 activation leads to anxiety in response to stress and 5-HTRs lead to depression, this research points to the potential for stress, anxiety and depression pathways to connect through distinct processes in the brain. The inhibitor developed by Ferguson blocks the 5-HTRs in the pathways to combat anxious behavior and potentially depression.

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