The ketogenic diet (KD) is characterized by a diet ratio of 4:1 fat to non-fat energy sources. For decades KD has been successfully used to control seizures in epilepsy patients. Investigations into its mechanism of action suggest that it may have an effect on the metabolic, nervous, immune, and digestive systems. In this review, we postulate that KD may also improve depressive symptoms – for that, we highlight the similarities between depression and epilepsy, describe the extent to which body systems involved in both conditions are affected by the KD, and ultimately hypothesize how KD could improve MDD outcomes. Research into animal models and human patients have reported that KD can increase mitochondrial biogenesis and increase cellular resistance to oxidative stress both at the mitochondrial and genetic levels. Its effect on neurotransmitters alters cell-to-cell communication in the brain and may decrease hyperexcitability by increasing Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) and decreasing excitatory neurotransmitter levels. Its anti-inflammatory effects are mediated by decreasing chemo- and cytokine levels, including TNF-alpha and IL-1 levels. Finally, KD can alter gut microbiota (GM). Certain strains of microbiota predominate in major depressive disorder (MDD) when compared to healthy individuals. Recent evidence points to Bacteroidetes as a potential treatment predictor as it seems to increase in KD treatment responders for epilepsy. Each of these observations contributes to the presumed modulatory effects of KD on mood and supports its potential role as antidepressant.
Schizophrenia is a chronic and often severe psychotic disorder. Its causes include imbalances in mediators involved in neuroplasticity, apoptosis, cell resilience and dendritic arborization. Among these mediators, oxidative species are particularly relevant for the pathophysiology of the disease, and this is the rationale for experimental use of antioxidant medications, such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC). Onset of schizophrenia is usually preceded by a period of subtle and unspecific symptoms, the prodrome, in which preventive interventions could delay or even stop the progression to full-blown psychosis. In this article, we propose that NAC could be a useful medication to prevent evolution of schizophrenia in individuals at risk for psychosis.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a highly prevalent and disabling condition for which the currently available treatments are not fully effective. Existing unmet needs include rapid onset of action and optimal management of concurrent agitation. Dexmedetomidine (DEX) is a selective and potent α2-adrenergic receptor (α2-AR) agonist, with unique pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties. In this review, we discuss pre-clinical and clinical studies which focused on DEX in the context of its putative antidepressant effects for the management of MDD. Preliminary data support DEX as an antidepressant with fast onset of action, which would be especially helpful for patients experiencing treatment resistant depression, and agitation. We further explore the mechanistic and clinical implications of considering DEX as a putative antidepressant agent, and the next steps to explore the efficacy of low dose DEX infusion among patients with treatment resistant depression.
Convergent evidence demonstrates that immune dysfunction (e.g. chronic low-grade inflammatory activation) plays an important role in the development and progression of mood disorders. The Janus kinase/signal transducers and activators of transcription (JAK/STAT) signaling pathway is a pleiotropic cellular cascade that transduces numerous signals, including signals from the release of cytokines and growth factors. The JAK/STAT signaling pathway is involved in mediating several functions of the central nervous system, including neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity, gliogenesis, and microglial activation, all of which have been implicated in the pathophysiology of mood disorders. In addition, the antidepressant actions of current treatments have been shown to be mediated by JAK/STAT-dependent mechanisms. To date, two JAK inhibitors (JAKinibs) have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are primarily indicated for the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Indirect evidence from studies in populations with inflammatory conditions indicates that JAKinibs significantly improve measures of mood and quality of life. There is also direct evidence from studies in populations with depressive disorders, suggesting that JAK/STAT pathways may be involved in the pathophysiology of depression and that the inhibition of specific JAK/STAT pathways (i.e. via JAKinibs) may be a promising novel treatment for depressive disorders.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD) are among the leading causes of burden and disability worldwide. Despite intensified research efforts to improve the treatment options and remission rates in mood disorders, no disease modifying treatment exists for these disorders. Accumulating evidence implicates the involvement of the gut microbiota in processes relevant to etiopathology of central nervous system-based disorders. The objective of this article was to critically evaluate the evidence supporting the link between gastrointestinal microbiota and mood disorders and to discuss the potential benefits of using probiotics in the treatment of MDD and BD. The concept of psychobiotics, which is bacterial-based interventions with mental health benefit, is emerging in the field. On the other hand, while probiotics might potentially represent a significant advance, specific roles of microbiota in the pathophysiology of mood disorders still need further investigation along with intervention studies.