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Understanding depression and anxiety
Understanding depression and anxiety

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4  Insights from antidepressants

Antidepressant drugs (also known as antidepressant medications or ADMs) were discovered completely by accident in the 1950s, starting a revolution in the treatment of affective disorders. The fact that they were effective in helping many people who were depressed led to a major research effort to find out how they worked. As often happens in science, research into how the drugs work happened after the discovery that they did work.

This research has led to a number of influential hypotheses that attempt to explain the brain bases of such disorders. We shall consider three of these hypotheses here: the monoamine hypothesis, the neurotrophic hypothesis and the network hypothesis. Reserpine was isolated in 1952 from the dried root of Rauwolfia serpentina, a species of flowering plant also known as sarpaganda or ‘snakeroot’ in India. It was an ancient remedy for insanity, fever and snakebite. Apparently Gandhi used it as a tranquilliser.