Restoring gamma waves in the brain could help treat depression

Depression, like many other mental illnesses, is mysterious.

Restoring gamma waves in the brain could help treat depression
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Depression, like many other mental illnesses, is mysterious. There are many ways to treat it, but it’s hard to find a one-size-fits-all treatment for everyone. Lifestyle changes, therapy and medication are used to treat depression, but it can all be a frustrating process of trial and error to find the right combination for each person. There’s also something called “treatment-resistant depression,” which is when standard treatments like medication and therapy don’t help reduce symptoms, even over a long time and with higher dosage.

But what if resetting your brain waves was the answer?

Researchers from NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Hungary’s University of Szeged put together a new study published in the journal Neuron involving mice and gamma waves that could lead to new developments in treating mental illness.

The study found that restoring certain brain signals that process smell might have an effect on depression. It showed that gamma signals in the olfactory bulb (where we process smells) can change our emotions.

So, how does this work? Well, our neurons send off electric signals to transmit information. For different parts of the brain to communicate, groups of neurons need synchronized activity patterns. One of these patterns is called gamma, and it’s an important timing pattern for communicating complex info, which could include emotions.

“Our experiments revealed a mechanistic link between deficient gamma activity and behavioral decline in mice and rat models of depression, with the signal changes in the olfactory and connected limbic systems similar to those seen in depressed patients,” said one study author Antal Berényi, MD, PhD, and professor at NYU Langone Health. “This work demonstrates the power of gamma enhancement as a potential approach for countering depression and anxiety in cases where available medications are not effective.”

Researchers don’t completely understand the link between firing patterns of gamma waves and emotions yet. So, more studies will have to be conducted. But this is an interesting start.

“No one yet knows how the firing patterns of gamma waves are converted into emotions,” said senior study author György Buzsáki, MD, PhD. “Moving forward, we will be working to better understand this link in the bulb, and in the regions it connects to, as behavior changes.”