Discovery Neuroscience Demonstration Project: Shining a light on reproductive depression

September 26, 2017

About 20% of women develop depression at some point in life.  Depression can occur at any age, but it is most common in women between the ages of 40 and 59. Although women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, studies involving animals usually ignore this important aspect of the disease. The term “reproductive depression” denotes the depression in women that relates to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and then menopause.  When describing these types of depression, the typical diagnoses are “premenstrual depression” or “premenstrual dysphoric disorder” (PMDD), “postpartum depression” and “depression at the time of the menopause.”

Dr. Istvan Mody, Distinguished Professor of Neurology and Physiology, has identified a certain type of receptor on the surface of neurons that plays a critical role in PMDD and postpartum depression. Mouse models facilitated this discovery along with several other findings.  The goal of his current research project is to focus on depression during menopausal transition.  Simultaneously, he will examine a specific hormone-dependent pathway in the brain, which has been shown to be targeted by the novel antidepressant ketamine. These various projects deploy a wide range of sophisticated approaches, including electrophysiological and ­genetic manipulations, while targeting groups of neurons related to depression in PMDD that never have been targeted before. Dr. Mody’s studies use mouse models of reproductive depression and explore the effects of novel antidepressants with the ultimate goal of helping the millions of women suffering from these devastating disorders.

This update was included in the DGC Summer Newsletter, written by UCLA Student/Depression Grand Challenge Student Worker, Emilia Szmyrgala.