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Hum Psychopharmacol. 2008 Jul;23(5):371-84. doi: 10.1002/hup.946.

Is major depressive disorder a metabolic encephalopathy?

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Unit for Drug Research and Development, Division of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.


Metabolic encephalopathy is an acute disturbance in cellular metabolism in the brain evoked by conditions of hypoxia, hypoglycaemia, oxidative stress and/or inflammation. It usually develops acutely or subacutely and is reversible if the systemic disorder is treated. If left untreated, however, metabolic encephalopathy may result in secondary structural damage to the brain. Most encephalopathies are present with neuropsychiatric symptoms, one in particular being depression. However, mood disorders are often co-morbid with cardiovascular, liver, kidney and endocrine disorders, while increasing evidence concurs that depression involves inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes. This would suggest that metabolic disturbances resembling encephalopathy may underscore the basic neuropathology of depression at a far deeper level than currently realized. Viewing depression as a form of encephalopathy, and exploiting knowledge gleaned from our understanding of the neurochemistry and treatment of metabolic encephalopathy, may assist in our understanding of the neurobiology of depression, but also in realizing new ideas in the pharmacotherapy of mood disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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