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The Biological Basis of Depression: Insights from Animal Models 

The Biological Basis of Depression: Insights from Animal Models
Chapter:
The Biological Basis of Depression: Insights from Animal Models
Author(s):

Eric J. Nestler

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190603342.003.0001
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date: 18 October 2018

Most major advances in biomedical research have relied on the use of animal and cell models of disease. This is a particularly difficult challenge in psychiatry, because many core symptoms of mental illnesses are inherently inaccessible in animals. Moreover, because still today there are no bona fide molecular-cellular abnormalities that are pathogenomic for these illnesses, cell models are even more far afield. This chapter reviews efforts to overcome these obstacles and use animal and cell studies to better understand the biological basis of depression and to develop improved treatments. An important distinction is made between acute vs. chronic stress models as well as differentiating the changes that stress induces in brain that mediate deleterious maladaptations as opposed to homeostatic adaptations that help the individual cope with the stress. Studies along these lines are making major strides in identifying candidate molecular pathways that should be mined for new antidepressant treatments. However, a major gap in the field is the great difficulty in testing novel mechanisms in humans; closing this gap is one of the highest priorities for the field.

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