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      Immune and neurotrophin stimulation by electroconvulsive therapy: is some inflammation needed after all?

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          A low-grade inflammatory response is commonly seen in the peripheral blood of major depressive disorder (MDD) patients, especially those with refractory and chronic disease courses. However, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the most drastic intervention reserved for these patients, is closely associated with an enhanced haematogenous as well as neuroinflammatory immune response, as evidenced by both human and animal studies. A related line of experimental evidence further shows that inflammatory stimulation reinforces neurotrophin expression and may even mediate dramatic neurogenic and antidepressant-like effects following exposure to chronic stress. The current review therefore attempts a synthesis of our knowledge on the neurotrophic and immunological aspects of ECT and other electrically based treatments in psychiatry. Perhaps contrary to contemporary views, we conclude that targeted potentiation, rather than suppression, of inflammatory responses may be of therapeutic relevance to chronically depressed patients or a subgroup thereof.

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          Most cited references 125

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          From inflammation to sickness and depression: when the immune system subjugates the brain.

          In response to a peripheral infection, innate immune cells produce pro-inflammatory cytokines that act on the brain to cause sickness behaviour. When activation of the peripheral immune system continues unabated, such as during systemic infections, cancer or autoimmune diseases, the ensuing immune signalling to the brain can lead to an exacerbation of sickness and the development of symptoms of depression in vulnerable individuals. These phenomena might account for the increased prevalence of clinical depression in physically ill people. Inflammation is therefore an important biological event that might increase the risk of major depressive episodes, much like the more traditional psychosocial factors.
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            A meta-analysis of cytokines in major depression.

            Major depression occurs in 4.4% to 20% of the general population. Studies suggest that major depression is accompanied by immune dysregulation and activation of the inflammatory response system (IRS). Our objective was to quantitatively summarize the data on concentrations of specific cytokines in patients diagnosed with a major depressive episode and controls. We performed a meta-analysis of studies measuring cytokine concentration in patients with major depression, with a database search of the English literature (to August 2009) and a manual search of references. Twenty-four studies involving unstimulated measurements of cytokines in patients meeting DSM criteria for major depression were included in the meta-analysis; 13 for tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, 9 for interleukin (IL)-1beta, 16 for IL-6, 5 for IL-4, 5 for IL-2, 4 for IL-8, 6 for IL-10, and 4 for interferon (IFN)-gamma. There were significantly higher concentrations of TNF-alpha (p < .00001), weighted mean difference (WMD) (95% confidence interval) 3.97 pg/mL (2.24 to 5.71), in depressed subjects compared with control subjects (438 depressed/350 nondepressed). Also, IL-6 concentrations were significantly higher (p < .00001) in depressed subjects compared with control subjects (492 depressed/400 nondepressed) with an overall WMD of 1.78 pg/mL (1.23 to 2.33). There were no significant differences among depressed and nondepressed subjects for the other cytokines studied. This meta-analysis reports significantly higher concentrations of the proinflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha and IL-6 in depressed subjects compared with control subjects. While both positive and negative results have been reported in individual studies, this meta-analytic result strengthens evidence that depression is accompanied by activation of the IRS. Copyright 2010 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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              Requirement of hippocampal neurogenesis for the behavioral effects of antidepressants.

              Various chronic antidepressant treatments increase adult hippocampal neurogenesis, but the functional importance of this phenomenon remains unclear. Here, using genetic and radiological methods, we show that disrupting antidepressant-induced neurogenesis blocks behavioral responses to antidepressants. Serotonin 1A receptor null mice were insensitive to the neurogenic and behavioral effects of fluoxetine, a serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor. X-irradiation of a restricted region of mouse brain containing the hippocampus prevented the neurogenic and behavioral effects of two classes of antidepressants. These findings suggest that the behavioral effects of chronic antidepressants may be mediated by the stimulation of neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]Department of Molecular Neurobiology, Center for Life Sciences, University of Groningen , Groningen, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Department of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen , Groningen, The Netherlands
                [3 ]Institute of Neuroimmunology and Multiple Sclerosis, Center for Molecular Neurobiology, University Medical Center Eppendorf , Hamburg, Germany
                [4 ]Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen , Groningen, The Netherlands
                Author notes
                [* ]Department of Molecular Neurobiology, Center for Life Sciences, University of Groningen , Nijenborgh 7, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands. E-mail: e.m.buel@

                These two authors contributed equally to this work.


                These two authors contributed equally to this work.

                Transl Psychiatry
                Transl Psychiatry
                Translational Psychiatry
                Nature Publishing Group
                July 2015
                28 July 2015
                1 July 2015
                : 5
                : 7
                : e609
                Copyright © 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit


                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry


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