Tulane University has won a big grant for the study of possible new treatments for depression. The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded Tulane $1.8 million for a five-year study. So far the research has concentrated on using the drug ketamine, according to neuroscience Professor Benjamin Hall.
Hall said typical antidepressant medicines can be ineffective for many patients but ketamine seems to work well in knocking out depression by producing fast results, however it can have troubling side effects.
''Ketamine in very high concentrations is actually an anesthetic, in mid range doses it can cause hallucinations,'' said Hall.
So the key is refining the drug so it can be used safely to treat depression.
''The work will be on going for many years, it's really the focus of my lab,'' said Hall.
Hall said the NIMH grant will enable him to get new lab equipment and bring on more assistants to expedite his research. Ironically, ketamine is a black market street drug often imported illegally from countries like India.