2. Molecular biology of depressive and anxiety disorders
The underlying basis of depression and anxiety is poorly understood at present. We approach elucidation of the molecular, genetic and hormonal factors of depression and anxiety using two different means: animal models and human volunteer studies. In-house, we developed through selective breeding over many generations two mouse strains with strong and stable features of social behavior. Dominant strain mice are socially dominant, resilient to stress, do not typically exhibit any depressive- or anxiety-like traits in behavioral tests, display a higher level of drug attraction under stress-naïve conditions and show a lack of stress-mediated increase in drug attraction.
Submissive strain mice are socially submissive, susceptible to stress, exhibit depressive- and anxiety-like behaviors, and show a marked attraction to addictive substances when under stress. These depressive- and anxiety-like behaviors are also responsive to standard anxiolytic and mood elevating medications. We identified and continue to reveal biomarkers linked to depression/anxiety and are now examining whether these same markers are related to depressive disorders in humans such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Bipolar Disorder (BPD), and other disorders with psychiatric features.