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Synapse. 1997 Sep;27(1):36-44.

Thyroid hormones and the treatment of depression: an examination of basic hormonal actions in the mature mammalian brain.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Ohio University, Athens 45701, USA.


Numerous clinical reports indicate that thyroid hormones can influence mood, and a change in thyroid status is an important correlate of depression. Moreover, thyroid hormones have been shown to be effective as adjuncts for traditional antidepressant medications in treatment-resistant patients. In spite of a large clinical literature, little is known about the mechanism by which thyroid hormones elevate mood. The lack of mechanistic insight reflects, in large part, a longstanding bias that the mature mammalian central nervous system is not an important target site for thyroid hormones. Biochemical, physiological, and behavioral evidence is reviewed that provides a clear picture of their importance for neuronal function. This paper offers the hypothesis that the thyroid hormones influence affective state via postreceptor mechanisms that facilitate signal transduction pathways in the adult mammalian brain. This influence is generalizable to widely recognized targets of antidepressant therapies such as noradrenergic and serotonergic neurotransmission.

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