By selectively activating and inactivating a potent transcription factor in a rat's Nucleus Accumbens (NAc), a main pleasure center in the brain, scientists at the McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., might have found a link between cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) and depression (A.M. Pliakas et al., "Altered responsiveness to cocaine and increased immobility in the forced swim test associated with elevated cAMP response element-binding protein expression in nucleus accumbens," Journal of Neuroscience, 21[18]:7397-403, Sept. 15, 2001). Rat models with elevated expression of CREB in the NAc showed symptoms of dysphoria and despair. Directly blocking CREB activity caused the opposite effect, making the rats react as if they were treated with antidepressant drugs. Says William Carlezon, director of McLean's Behavioral Genetics laboratory: "Our data indicate that activation of CREB might be an early step in triggering depression symptoms." CREB, a transcription factor, enables activation of many genes in...

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