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16383Mice overcome fear, depression with natural Prozac

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  • medit8ionsociety
    Oct 10 3:33 PM
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      Mice overcome fear, depression with natural Prozac
      WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2008
      From Newsdaily.com
      The brain can produce antidepressants with
      the right signal, a finding that suggests that
      meditating, or going to your "happy place,"
      truly works, scientists reported on Wednesday.
      Mice forced to swim endlessly until they
      surrendered and just floated, waiting to drown,
      could be conditioned to regain their will to
      live when a tone they associated with safety
      was played.
      The experiment suggests that there are good
      ways to teach people this skill, and points
      to new routes for developing better antidepressants,
      said Dr. Eric Kandel of the Howard Hughes Medical
      Institute and Columbia University in New York,
      who led the research.
      "The happy place works. This is like going to
      the country," Kandel said in a telephone interview.
      Writing in the journal Neuron, Kandel's team
      said they used classical conditioning to train
      mice. They had already conditioned some mice to
      fear a neutral tone by playing the sound when
      they shocked the animals' paws. After a while,
      the tone itself creates fear.
      "It scares the hell out of the animal,"
      Kandel said.
      They decided to reverse the study -- they
      played the tone when they were not shocking
      the mice. "It learned that the only time it
      was really safe is when the tone comes on," Kandel said.
      To make a mouse depressed, they used a method favored by drug
      companies called learned helplessness.
      "You put an animal into a pool of water and
      it can't get out. It gives up and it stops
      swimming and it just floats," Kandel said.
      "When you give the animal an antidepressant,
      it starts swimming again. When we played the
      tone, it started to swim again just as it did
      with the antidepressant."
      Further experiments showed the tone and an
      antidepressant drug worked synergistically, he said.
      When they looked at the brains of their mice,
      they saw using the conditioned "safety" tone
      activated a different pathway than the drugs did.
      It affected dopamine, while antidepressants
      work on serotonin. Both are message-carrying
      molecules called neurotransmitters.
      The conditioning also affected a compound
      called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or
      BDNF -- which helps nourish and encourages
      the growth of brain cells.
      The learned safety did not affect serotonin.
      Mice conditioned by the "safety" tone also had
      more newborn brain cells in the dentate gyrus,
      a part of the brain linked with learning and
      When Kandel's team used radiation to slow the
      birth of new cells in the dentate gyrus, the
      effects of learned safety and of antidepressants
      were blunted.
      Kandel noted that antidepressant drugs appear
      to work, in part, by encouraging the growth of
      new brain cells -- as does psychotherapy.
      "Learning involves alterations in the brain and
      gene expression," Kandel said. "Psychotherapy
      is only a form of learning."
      This shows how effective psychotherapy, meditation
      and other stress-reduction tools may be, and it
      could help in the design of new drugs, Kandel said.
      "This opens up new pathways that may profitable,"
      he said.

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