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NIMH’s Dr. Maura Furey on scopolamine research

Dr. Maura Furey on the search for a fast acting anti-depressant.

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Furey: The reason that we’re kind of excited about these findings is that what it’s telling us is that before we ever give anybody treatment there are indices in the way the brain is responding to things around… you know… things in people’s environment that basically reflects their potential to respond to treatment. So we were able to use this functional imaging method and look at ways that the brains of patients who are suffering from mood disorders or particularly major depressive disorder different ways that they’re responding to specific types of information in pictures. So, we’re showing people emotional pictures and asking them to pay attention to different aspects of it and specifically when they pay attention to emotion we can see patterns of activity in the brain that tell us who will and will not respond to at least this particular drug that we’re working with.

Furey: It was really serendipity, you know, I was interested in looking at how scopolamine affected memory and attention in people suffering from mood disorders- people who complain about attention problems and memory problems all the time. And scopolamine affects the system called the cholinergic system, which is centrally involved in memory and attention function and it was shown, you know, a couple of decades ago now that the cholinergic system is overactive in people suffering from mood disorders. So it’s kind of a very simple concept that, well maybe, if we block those overactive receptors that it will improve memory and attention. And not only did people get better, they basically got better overnight or at least over a couple of days.