A single sub-psychotomimetic dose of ketamine, an ionotropic glutamatergic n-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, produces a fast-acting antidepressant response in patients suffering from major depressive disorder. Depressed patients report alleviation of core symptoms within 2 h of a single low-dose intravenous infusion of ketamine with effects lasting up to 2 weeks. The rapidity of ketamine action implies that major symptoms of depression can be alleviated without substantial structural plasticity or circuit rewiring. Therefore, the ability of ketamine to exert a rapid effect provides a unique opportunity to elucidate the types of acute synaptic plasticity changes that can be recruited to counter depression symptoms.
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