Traditional antidepressants require many weeks to reveal their therapeutic effects. However, the widely replicated observation that a single subanesthetic dose of the N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptor antagonist ketamine produced meaningful clinical improvement within hours, suggested that rapid-acting antidepressants might be possible. The ketamine studies stimulated a new generation of basic antidepressant research that identified new neural signaling mechanisms in antidepressant response and provided a conceptual framework linking a group of novel antidepressant mechanisms. This article presents the path that led to the testing of ketamine, considers its promise as an antidepressant, and reviews novel treatment mechanisms that are emerging from this line of research.
Published by Elsevier Inc.