PhD defense: 16 February 11:45 (Aula)
Danai Riga will defend her thesis “Defeating depression: an integrative preclinical approach”.
In her PhD thesis, an animal model for depression was used to examine different aspects of the depressive disorder. First, the co-occurrence of depression with alcohol dependence was examined and it was found that depressed rats have a higher tendency to drink alcohol. In fact, the more depressed an animal was, the higher its chances to develop an alcohol addiction. On the other hand, animals resilient to depression did not show signs of alcohol dependence.
Likewise, these depressed animals cannot regulate their motivation when confronted with natural rewards (sucrose), resulting into them working harder in order to obtain the sugary drink.
Furthermore, Danai examined how depressive symptoms develop over-time. In the most depressed animals, symptoms that relate to social behavior, such as decreased social interaction, develop first. Depressive symptoms associated with cognitive function, such as impaired memory, appear at a later time point.
Finally, Danai examined brain changes that are responsible for impaired memory in depressed rats, with a focus on the hippocampus, the brain area that helps us form memories. A particular network of proteins that surrounds neurons is increased in the depressed hippocampus. This results in reduced communication between neuronal cells and thus, impaired memory in depression.