People that have high levels of inflammation in their brain may also have more stubborn symptoms of depression.
Jennifer Felger, PhD, of Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, and colleagues examined 48 patients with depression. Those with high levels of high levels of the inflammatory marker CRP (C-reactive protein) were linked with a “communication failure,” as seen through brain scans, between regions of the brain important for motivation and reward.
The findings, according to Felger, reinforce the idea that high-inflammation depression is a distinct form of the mood disorder, and should have treatments developed specifically for it, she wrote in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
In particular, many people with depression, despite taking antidepressants, still suffer from anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure. And in particular, those with high CRPs levels were particular susceptible to it.
“Our data suggest that by blocking inflammation or its effects on the brain, we may be able to reverse anhedonia and help depressed individuals who fail to respond to antidepressants,” Felger said in a statement.
The researchers are next planning to test whether L-DOPA, a drug that targets the brain chemical dopamine, can increase connectivity in reward-related brain regions in patients with high-inflammation depression.
About one third of people with depression have high levels of inflammation markers in their blood. New research indicates that persistent inflammation affects the brain in ways that are connected with stubborn symptoms of depression, such as anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure.
The results were published online in Molecular Psychiatry.
The findings bolster the case that the high-inflammation form of depression is distinct, and are guiding researchers’ plans to test treatments tailored for it.
Anhedonia is a core symptom of depression that is particularly difficult to treat, says lead author Jennifer Felger, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute.