Depression is an illness of unknown origin and involves the dysregulation of many physiological processes disturbed in this disease. It has been postulated that the pathomechanism of depression is complex, and apart from changes in neurotransmitters, a dysregulation of the immune and endocrine systems also plays an important role in the development of this disorder. Recent studies indicate that an impairment of synaptic plasticity in specific areas of the central nervous system (CNS), particularly the hippocampus, may be an important factor in the pathogenesis of depression. The abnormal neural plasticity may be related to alterations in the levels of neurotrophic factors. On this basis, a theory connecting the occurrence of depression with disturbances in neurotrophic factors has gained great attention. This review summarizes data suggesting a role for the neurotrophic factors - especially insulin-like-growth factor-1 (IGF-1) - as possible targets for therapy in depression in the context of depressive behavior modulation, anti-inflammatory action and neuroprotection.