Potentials of Ketamine in Treating Depression

Allan Mai ‘20

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a psychiatric illness affecting people on a global scale. There are very few drugs to treat this disorder, but the ones that do exist aim to alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the body. Ketamine is one of these drugs, and researchers have recently shown that the efficacy of the drug might be doubled as a result of its mechanism of action, affecting multiple functional regions of the brain. Researchers in Germany attempted to study the short and long term effects of ketamine as well as discover any global effects the drug had on rodent brains.

Sprague-Dawley rats were separated into a negative cognitive state group (depressed rats) and positive cognitive state group. Then, the s-enantiomer of ketamine was randomly applied to both groups by researchers blind to the category of each group. The results of the study showed that ketamine does indeed have a global effect on the cognitive function of negative and positive cognitive rats. Rats that underwent the treatment were assessed using a variety of metrics typical for assessing patients with depression, and most of these metrics improved with the administration of ketamine. Another notable finding was that global topology in response to ketamine was short lasting with no effects after 48 hours, leading to the conclusion that the long term effects of ketamine did not rely on topological reorganization.

Newer drugs are being created every year to combat depression because of the theory that the disorder stems from neurotransmitter imbalances within the brain. Ketamine has been created for anesthesthetic purposes and has only recently been discovered to have antidepressive effects. Nonetheless, further research needs to be conducted in order to determine the potential wide ranging effects of the drug when treating depression.


  1. N. Gass, et. al., Differences between ketamine’s short-term and long-term effects on brain circuitry in depression. Translational Psychiatry 9, 172 (2019).
  2. Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-art-conceptual-dark-278312/

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