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Scopolamine and depression: a role for muscarinic antagonism?

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Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.


Depressive disorders have, for a sizeable extent, proven resilient to pharmacotherapy. Established drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) often provide inadequate symptom relief and sometimes fail altogether. Recently, interest in antidepressant effects of scopolamine, a non-selective muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) antagonist, has arisen. Initial evidence suggests that scopolamine provides relatively rapid and long-lasting symptom alleviation for unipolar and bipolar depressed patients. At the same time, side effects of medical dosages appear mild and transient in nature. The aim of the present review is to tentatively discuss the antidepressant potential of scopolamine and to outline putative neurobiological pathways. Clearly, mAChR antagonism provides an intriguing novel therapeutical approach for treating depressive disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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