In a study from Emory University, scientists found levodopa, a drug that increases dopamine in the brain, has the potential to reverse the effects of inflammation on brain reward circuitry, ultimately improving symptoms of depression.
Scientists have shown that inflammation causes reduced motivation and anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, by affecting the brain’s reward pathways.
Research has linked the effects of inflammation on the brain to decreased release of dopamine, a chemical neurotransmitter that regulates motivation and motor activity, in the ventral striatum.
In the study, researchers showed that levodopa reversed the effects of inflammation on the brain’s functional connectivity in reward circuitry and anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) in depressed people.
These people had higher C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood biomarker produced and released by the liver in response to inflammation.
Levels of inflammation can be easily measured by simple blood tests, like CRP, readily available in clinics and hospitals throughout the U.S.
The team tested 40 depressed patients with a range of CRP levels from high to low who underwent functional brain scans on two visits after receiving in random order either placebo or levodopa, a drug often prescribed for disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
Levodopa improved functional connectivity in classic ventral striatum to ventromedial prefrontal cortex reward circuit but only in patients with higher levels of CRP.
This improvement in reward circuitry in depressed people with higher CRP is also linked to reduced symptoms of anhedonia after levodopa.
This research showed the potential for use of inflammation-related deficits in functional connectivity and could have important implications for the future investigations of precision therapies for depression patients with high inflammation
These study findings are critical for two reasons. First, they suggest depressed patients with high inflammation may specifically respond to drugs that increase dopamine.
Second, these findings also provide additional evidence that functional connectivity in reward circuitry may serve as a reliable brain biomarker for the effects of inflammation on the brain.
If you care about inflammation, please read studies about a major cause of artery-damaging inflammation, and scientists find a better way to treat inflammation.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about new way to halt excessive inflammation, and results showing Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.
The study was conducted by Jennifer C. Felger et al and published in Molecular Psychiatry.
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