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Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a leading cause of disability worldwide, yet current treatment strategies remain limited in their mechanistic diversity. Recent evidence has highlighted a promising novel pharmaceutical target—the KCNQ-type potassium channel—for the treatment of depressive disorders, which may exert a therapeutic effect via functional changes within the brain reward system, including the ventral striatum. The current study assessed the effects of the KCNQ channel opener ezogabine (also known as retigabine) on reward circuitry and clinical symptoms in patients with MDD. Eighteen medication-free individuals with MDD currently in a major depressive episode were enrolled in an open-label study and received ezogabine up to 900 mg/day orally over the course of ten weeks. Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging data were collected at baseline and post-treatment to examine brain reward circuitry. Reward learning was measured using a computerized probabilistic reward task. After treatment with ezogabine, subjects exhibited a significant reduction of depressive symptoms (Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale score change: −13.7±9.7, p


This article is published in Molecular Psychiatry, available at DOI: 10.1038/s41380-018-0283-2.


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