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The cholinergic system involves the regulation of neurotransmitters and the brain receptors to which they bind. Evidence suggests that the cholinergic system may play a role in the development of depression. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that binds to certain brain receptors called muscarinic cholinergic receptors. Cholinomimetic drugs (drugs that stimulate the cholinergic system) often exacerbate depressive symptoms in people with mood disorders and in healthy individuals. This increase in depressive symptoms may be caused by stimulation of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs), but further study is needed to confirm this. This study will use positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the function of mAChRs in individuals with depression.
Participants in this study will undergo a physical examination, psychiatric interviews, neuropsychological tests, PET and MRI scans, and rating scales of depression, anxiety, and negative thinking symptoms. Questions about behavior and functioning will be asked and blood samples will be collected for genetic analysis.
Several paths of evidence converge in implicating a role for the cholinergic system in the pathophysiology of affective illness. In both unipolar depressed and euthymic bipolar subjects, cholinomimetic drugs (i.e., muscarinic agonists, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors) exacerbate depressive signs and symptoms such as dysphoria, psychomotor retardation, impairment of attention and memory, hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis hyperactivity and sleep EEG abnormalities. In healthy subjects, the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine elicits a range of depressive symptoms including dysphoria, anergia, psychomotor slowing, emotional lability, sleep disturbances, memory and concentration impairment, and with higher doses, tearfulness and depression. These effects have been shown to reflect stimulation of muscarinic receptors. Cholinomimetics also exacerbate behavioral despair in putative animal models of depression. Conversely, the anticholinergic agent biperidine improved symptoms of depression in a placebo controlled study. Moreover, muscarinic cholinomimetics and a choline rich nutrient, lecithin (phosphatidylcholine) exert antimanic effects in bipolar subjects.
Potentially consistent with these observations, depressed subjects exhibit hypersensitivity to cholinomimetic agents. Administration of muscarinic cholinergic agonists, ACh releasing agents or acetylcholinesterase inhibitors induce exaggerated effects on REM density and latency in depressed subjects than in healthy controls. In addition, both manic and depressed bipolar subjects show increased pupillary sensitivity to the muscarinic cholinergic agonist pilocarpine relative to controls.
Despite the data implicating the mAChR receptor system in mood disorders, no direct in vivo investigations of the central mAChR have been performed in depressed subjects. A novel PET radioligand, [(18)F]FP-TZTP was recently developed by Eckelman as a selective agonist of M(2) receptors. Because the M(2) receptor functions predominately as a presynaptic release-controlling autoreceptor, decreased distribution volume (V) of this receptor could conceivably give rise to increased postsynaptic muscarinic receptor sensitivity.
This application proposes a pilot PET study of M(2) receptor distribution volume in currently depressed subjects with major depressive disorder (n=30), currently depressed subjects with bipolar disorder (n=30), and psychiatrically healthy controls (n=30). The proposed pilot study will test the central hypothesis that M(2) receptor V is decreased in regions where they are primarily located presynaptically in depressed subjects relative to healthy controls. The proposed study will advance knowledge regarding the pathophysiology of depression.
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
Published on BioPortfolio: 2014-08-27T03:55:39-0400
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