Background: The rapid-acting clinical effects of ketamine as a novel treatment for depression along with its complex pharmacology have made it a growing research area. One of the key mechanistic hypotheses for how ketamine works to alleviate depression is by enhancing long-term potentiation (LTP)-mediated neural plasticity.
Methods: The objective of this study was to investigate the plasticity hypothesis in 30 patients with depression noninvasively using visual LTP as an index of neural plasticity. In a double-blind, active placebo-controlled crossover trial, electroencephalography-based LTP was recorded approximately 3 to 4 hours following a single 0.44-mg/kg intravenous dose of ketamine or active placebo (1.7 ng/mL remifentanil) in 30 patients. Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale scores were used to measure clinical symptoms. Visual LTP was measured as a change in the visually evoked potential following high-frequency visual stimulation. Dynamic causal modeling investigated the underlying neural architecture of visual LTP and the contribution of ketamine.
Results: Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale scores revealed that 70% of participants experienced 50% or greater reduction in their depression symptoms within 1 day of receiving ketamine. LTP was demonstrated in the N1 (p = .00002) and P2 (p = 2.31 × 10-11) visually evoked components. Ketamine specifically enhanced P2 potentiation compared with placebo (p = .017). Dynamic causal modeling replicated the recruitment of forward and intrinsic connections for visual LTP and showed complementary effects of ketamine indicative of downstream and proplasticity modulation.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence that LTP-based neural plasticity increases within the time frame of the antidepressant effects of ketamine in humans and supports the hypothesis that changes to neural plasticity may be key to the antidepressant properties of ketamine.
Sumner, R. L., McMillan, R., Spriggs, M. J., Campbell, D., Malpas, G., Maxwell, E., Deng, C., Hay, J., Ponton, R., Kirk, I. J., Sundram, F., & Muthukumaraswamy, S. D. (2020). Ketamine Enhances Visual Sensory Evoked Potential Long-term Potentiation in Patients With Major Depressive Disorder. Biological psychiatry. Cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging, 5(1), 45–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2019.07.002