Imaging Study to Examine Role of Glutamate in Major Depressive Disorder

02/20/2012: Irina Esterlis, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, has been awarded a three-year grant in the amount of $200,000 as part of the Dana Foundation's Program in Brain and Immuno-imaging. The grant will fund a project titled Brain Imaging of the Glutamatergic System in Depression. Dr. Esterlis is the project's principal investigator.

Mood disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Biopolar Disorder (BD) are the most prevalent type of psychiatric disorders; however, while the current treatments have greatly eased the burden of the disorder, it is now clear that many individuals fail to respond appreciatively and many more fail to achieve remission with these medications.

Several lines of emerging evidence suggest that dysfunction of the glutamate neurotransmitter system is associated with the pathophysiology of mood disorders.

Glutamate, the major excitatory neurotransmitter, is widespread throughout the brain, and likely modulates some of the constellation of symptoms present in individuals with MDD—dysfunctional sleep, appetite, motivation, and concentration.

Using state-of-the-art PET and MRS imaging technologies, this newly-funded project proposes to directly relate clinical characteristics of MDD to glutamate levels and availability of glutamate receptors in the brain.

The project is likely to be directly relevant to the development of treatments to improve the quality of lives of those suffering from mood disorders. The results obtained will guide drug development to target the glutamatergic system with the goal of reducing depressive symptoms and improving cognitive functioning.

For more information:

Dana Foundation, Project Summary

Dana Foundation Brain and Immuno-Imaging Grant Program