A recent study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in November 2016, revealed that suppressing one brain protein might spur the growth of neurons in the hippocampus region of the brain, which can help in reducing anxiety and improving depressive disorders.
The Finnish researchers conducted the study on mice that lacked a protein called Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) in mature cells. JNK “regulates a range of biological processes implicated in (tumor development) and neurodegenerative disorders,” according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). However, it is not clear how the JNK helps regulate mental health disorders.
The study revealed that the exclusive inhibition of JNK in adult-born granule cells helps improve anxiety and reduces depressive-like behavior. The research reinforces the theory that growth of new neurons helps overpower anxiety. According to the abstract, the study “establishes a causal role for JNK in the hippocampal neurogenic niche and anxiety behavior, and advocates targeting of JNK as an avenue for novel therapies against affective disorders.”
The authors noted that even though the trial was promising in managing the mental problems, the fact that neurogenesis plays an important role in fighting anxiety and depression is debatable. It said that the truth remains “largely unknown and the hypothesis itself is controversial … as other studies have shown beneficial effects of antidepressants independent of new neuron generation.”
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