Health & Wellness

Inflammation Can Play a Role in Anxiety and Depression

Medication targeting inflammation could be key for fighting mood disorders


Medications that reduce inflammation in the brain could prove effective in treating mood disorders such as like anxiety and depression, according to study conducted by researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and The Ohio State University.

Working with rats, the scientists found that stress-induced inflammation activated receptors in the rodents’ brains for the protein interleukin 1 (IL-1). The IL-1 receptors were in the hippocampus, the part of the brain related to learning and memory, and rats with the inflammation experienced symptoms that mirrored those of people with depression or anxiety.

“We demonstrated that chronic social stress caused the mice to show social withdrawal and working memory deficits,” explained Ning Quan, lead author of the study and a professor of biomedical science in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine.

When those receptors were blocked in the hippocampus, researchers found that rats stopped withdrawing and saw improvements in their memory.

“We are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress that will likely have long-lasting effects on millions of people of all ages around the world,” said Randy Blakely, executive director of the FAU’s Brain Institute. “When psychosocial stress becomes chronic, the effects are not just emotionally debilitating, they also are physically debilitating and can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and even addictive behaviour.”

Previous studies have shown the link between inflammation in the brain and symptoms of mood disorder, though the link to IL1- receptors wasn’t clear.

Blakely said the findings will “assist scientists and clinicians to develop more tailored treatments and therapies for people who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders.”

The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Photo: iStock/fizkes.