Depression is a common illness, approximately 1 in 10 people report symptoms of depression (http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression/). Imbalances in monoamine neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and norepinephrine, are commonly indicated in depression. Despite this knowledge, therapies addressing serotonin and norepinephrine imbalances are often ineffective. This may be due to a broad range of other imbalances contributing to depressive symptoms. If serotonin imbalances are being addressed, but serotonin imbalance is not the cause of the depression, symptom alleviation may not occur.
Recent research has uncovered other neurotransmitters are involved in depressive symptoms. Researchers have found a correlation between the blockade of the NMDA (glutamate) receptor, using an NMDA antagonist, and the alleviation of depressive symptoms in some patients. Another neurotransmitter with known involvement is dopamine; this is known due to dopamine reuptake inhibition leading to symptom alleviation in some patients.
Why is this important?
With so many potential imbalances within the neurotransmitters contributing to depression and mood disorders, determination of the appropriate treatment is difficult. Looking at baseline neurotransmitter values may be a valuable tool in determining which direction to take when addressing imbalances.
To illustrate this, below are urinary neurotransmitter results for 3 patients with depressive symptoms and /or mood issues:
It has been illustrated here that a variety of neurotransmitter imbalances may contribute to depression. It is also important to remember common underlying causes of neurotransmitter imbalances, such as diet, lifestyle, environment, psychological health, and the immune and endocrine systems. While these imbalances may be addressed with specific therapies, it is always important to identify the root cause of the imbalance when trying to address the system as a whole.
Guest author: Jennifer Farley is a member of the Medical Education Department at NeuroScience, Inc. and one of the resident experts in psychiatric disorders.