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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2009;11(3):333-48.

The neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects of psychotropic agents.

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Laboratory of Molecular Pathophysiology and Experimental Therapeutics, Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, NIMH, NIH, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA.


Accumulating evidence suggests that psychotropic agents such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics realize their neurotrophic/neuroprotective effects by activating the mitogen activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-related kinase, PI3-kinase, and wingless/glycogen synthase kinase (GSK) 3 signaling pathways. These agents also upregulate the expression of trophic/protective molecules such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, nerve growth factor, B-cell lymphoma 2, serine-threonine kinase, and Bcl-2 associated athanogene 1, and inactivate proapoptotic molecules such as GSK-3. They also promote neurogenesis and are protective in models of neurodegenerative diseases and ischemia. Most if not all, of this evidence was collected from animal studies that used clinically relevant treatment regimens. Furthermore, human imaging studies have found that these agents increase the volume and density of brain tissue, as well as levels of N-acetyl aspartate and glutamate in selected brain regions. Taken together, these data suggest that the neurotrophic/neuroprotective effects of these agents have broad therapeutic potential in the treatment; not only of mood disorders and schizophrenia, but also neurodegenerative diseases and ischemia.

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