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Link between Stress, Anxiety, Depression

Researchers have discovered a biological link between stress, anxiety and depression.

Lead researcher Stephen Ferguson believes that the connecting mechanism in the brain explains how stress and anxiety could lead to depression. The study also reveals a small molecule inhibitor, developed by Ferguson, which may provide a new and better way to treat anxiety, depression and other related disorders.

The findings are published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Ferguson, Ana Magalhaes and their colleagues used a behavioral mouse model and a series of molecular experiments to reveal the connection pathway and to 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, a professor in the department of physiology & pharmacology at the University of Western Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“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 research was conducted in collaboration with Hymie Anisman at Carleton University, and funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

“According to the World Health Organization, depression, anxiety and other related mood disorders now share the dubious distinction of being the most prevalent causes of chronic illness,” says Anthony Phillips, the scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction.

“Using the power of molecular biology, Stephen Ferguson and colleagues provide novel insights that may be the key to improving the lives of so many individuals coping with these forms of mental ill health.”

The linking mechanism in the study involves the interaction between corticotropin releasing factor receptor 1 (CRFR1) and specific types of serotonin receptors (5-HTRs).

While no one has been able to connect these two receptors on a molecular level, the study reveals that CRFR1 works to increase the number of 5-HTRs on cell surfaces in the brain, which can cause abnormal brain signaling.

Since CRFR1 activation leads to anxiety in response to stress, and 5-HTRs lead to depression, the research shows how stress, anxiety and depression pathways connect through distinct processes in the brain.

Most importantly, the inhibitor developed by the Ferguson lab blocks 5-HTRs in the pathway to combat anxious behavior, and potentially depression, in mice.

While major depressive disorder often occurs together with anxiety disorder in patients, the causes for both are strongly linked to stressful experiences. Stressful experiences can also make the symptoms of anxiety and depression more severe.

By discovering and then blocking a pathway responsible for the link between stress, anxiety and depression, Ferguson not only provides the first biological evidence for a connection, but he also pioneers the development of a potential drug for more effective treatment.

Source: University of Western Ontario

Link between Stress, Anxiety, Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Link between Stress, Anxiety, Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/04/12/link-between-stress-anxiety-depression/12749.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.