Researchers at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have discovered a way in which a substance called D-serine, secreted by astrocytes, support cells for brain neurons, improved the neural plasticity (ability to change) and memory of depressed rats. The rats were put through two tests to confirm that they had the symptoms that are also characteristic of human depression. In the first, the rats' memories were checked by repeatedly being exposed to different objects; in the second, the team assessed their level of apathy by releasing them in a container of water and observing whether they merely stayed floating in the container or immediately tried to climb out. Scientists have traced the brain's lower plasticity to reduced functionality in its support cells, and believe that learning more about these cells can pave the way for radical new therapies for depression.
Relevant Locations: Karolinska Institute, Liljeholmen, Stockholm, Sweden