The male sex hormone testosterone has significant antidepressant properties and Florida State University researchers are only now teasing out the exact mechanisms underlying its effects.
Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men and scientists have previously observed that men with hypogonadism (a condition where the body produces no or low testosterone) also suffer increased levels of depression and anxiety. In such cases, testosterone replacement therapy has been shown to effectively improve mood.
Researchers Nicole Carrier and Mohamed Kabbaj say they've discovered that a specific pathway in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in stress responses, plays a major role in testosterone's antidepressant effects. Details of their findings appear in Biological Psychiatry.
"Interestingly, the beneficial effects of testosterone were not associated with changes in neurogenesis [the generation of new neurons] in the hippocampus as it is the case with other classical antidepressants like imipramine [Tofranil] and fluoxetine [Prozac]," observed Kabbaj. This, the researchers conclude, suggests that testosterone mediators in the brain may be a promising target for novel antidepressant therapies.
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Source: Biological Psychiatry