Ketamine is Different
Ketamine acts in hours, not days or weeks like traditional antidepressants. That is because ketamine works on a completely different part of the brain. Most other antidepressants act on the monoamine system of the brain, targeting serotonin or similar neurotransmitters.
Ketamine is different. It appears to target a completely separate system – the glutamate system.
In acting this way, ketamine stimulates a molecule called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which has been coined “Miracle-Gro for the brain” because it is associated with growth of new branches on nerve cells as well as more and better connections between the neurons. It makes nerves blossom like a tree in spring.
Since ketamine works differently from other antidepressants, even if you have failed other meds or ECT, ketamine may still work for you.
Rat neuron before Ketamine
The pictures show a rat neuron. Above, before ketamine treatment, you see few dendritic spines – the connectors that nerve cells use to talk with other neurons. In depression, areas of the brain have been shown to lose these branches and connections. These physical changes cause nerves to lose the ability to communicate with each other and may be responsible for symptoms of depression.
New and fuller dendritic spines representing new connections in the brain after ketamine.
After treatment with ketamine, the neuron rapidly grows new dendritic buttons, each one connecting with other nerve cells, thus creating a web that allows a fuller, more interconnected brain. This is how ketamine is thought to actually reverse some of the damage brought about by depression, chronic stress and PTSD.