Research Highlights

Antidepressants? Think lactate treatment

Published online 29 October 2016

A brain chemical can potentially reverse depressed state.

Biplab Das

Astrocytes transport nutrients such as lactate to neurons. Lactate activates certain genes linked to neurons’ plasticity, particularly at the nerve junction known as synapse, contributing to the formation of long-term memory.  When astrocytes’ population dwindles, lactate levels in the brain fall, causing neurons to malfunction and leading to brain disorders such as depression.  

Now, a new study in Molecular Psychiatry is proposing a treatment that can reverse such depressive-like behaviours in mice; lactate treatment has the potential to restore lactate levels in the brain, causing an antidepressant effect. 

The research “will possibly open new therapeutic avenues for treating depression,” says neuroscientist Pierre J. Magistretti. 

Magistretti and his colleagues from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, and Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland, induced depressive-like behaviours in mice. They used their proposed treatment to increase lactate concentration in the hippocampus, the seat of memory in the brain, and an area implicated in depression.  

The treatment activated a group of plasticity genes and increased the levels of vital proteins, including a calcium-binding one, in the mice’s hippocampus.

It also reduced the activities of certain signaling molecules and enzymes involved in brain inflammation which typically increases the risk of developing major depression, the researchers say. 


Carrard, A. et al. Peripheral administration of lactate produces antidepressant-like effects. Mol. Psychiatr. (2016).