Looking At Images Of Smiling People Extends The Antidepressant Action Of Ketamine

February 20, 2023

Depression is a severe mood disorder that is challenging to treat. There are many oral depressants, but many people are resistant to oral drug therapy. In recent years, doctors have started experimenting with ketamine infusion for depression treatment. It appears to work quickly in many cases. Now, a new study shows that showing the images of smiling faces after priming the brain with ketamine may prolong the action of ketamine therapy. However, ketamine infusion therapy may not work for everyone, and it is important to explore other treatment options like post traumatic stress disorder and cluster headache treatments.

Science confirms that smiles can be contagious. Moreover, looking at happy faces helps reduce depression severity, a new study finds. Just a century back, depression was among the rare health conditions. However, due to the modern lifestyle, depression has now become an epidemic affecting millions of minds. Fortunately, medical science is also advancing and has come up with tens of drugs to treat depression. However, despite all the research and introduction of new drugs, they remain only moderately effective.

Studies suggest that antidepressants do not help much in many cases. Doctors often have to keep changing medications till they see some benefits. In many cases, patients are resistant to most medications and do not experience many benefits from drug therapy. Another drawback of antidepressants is that even if they work, they require much time to start acting. Generally, one can expect to experience some benefit from drug therapy no earlier than three months.

Not only do antidepressants fail to help in many cases and take a long time to start acting, but these drugs are also quite toxic. Antidepressants cause many side effects, reduce mental abilities, and sometimes may even worsen depression symptoms. Thus, researchers have constantly been looking for faster, more effective, and safer treatments. In the last few years, they have been experimenting with many new treatment approaches like magic mushrooms or ketamine therapy.

Ketamine therapy is fast gaining popularity for managing depression. Ketamine is an approved anesthetic drug. Thus, it has a proven safety record. However, recent studies show that it is also good for treating depression. Unlike oral antidepressants, ketamine infusion may help relieve depression symptoms quite quickly. Not only that, it appears that ketamine can completely reset the brain in many cases, providing prolonged relief.

Now researchers are looking for other ways to prolong the benefits of ketamine therapy. In the new study, researchers used ketamine therapy in 154 individuals living with resistant depression. After the ketamine infusion, they also showed them images of happy and smiling faces. Then, they used the computer program to show smiling faces to automate the task1.

Interestingly enough, they found that when this simple method is combined with ketamine infusion therapy, it results in better outcomes and more prolonged benefits from ketamine therapy. It appears that ketamine resets the brain. And if people are immediately exposed to smiling faces after ketamine therapy, this helps reprogram the brains, helping make significant changes in the brain.

After ketamine therapy, people are just much more receptive to various instructions. Hence, they naturally become happier if they are exposed to positive experiences during this phase. In addition, they tend to remember things they experience after ketamine therapy better. Showing images of smiling faces after ketamine therapy helps reprogram the brain. Such an intervention almost works like hypnosis. What is good about such an intervention is that it is pretty simple to implement and completely safe.

Therefore, researchers strongly recommend retraining the brain after priming it with ketamine. Showing images of smiling faces using the computer may be an easy and low-cost way to do it.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP