Depression is a devastating and prevalent disease, with profound effects on neural structure and function; however the etiology and neuropathology of depression remain poorly understood. Though antidepressant drugs exist, they are not ideal, as only a segment of patients are effectively treated, therapeutic onset is delayed, and the exact mechanism of these drugs remains to be elucidated. Several theories of depression do exist, including modulation of monoaminergic neurotransmission, alterations in neurotrophic factors, and the upregulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, and are briefly mentioned in the review. However none of these theories sufficiently explains the pathology and treatment of depression unto itself. Recently, neural plasticity theories of depression have postulated that multiple aspects of brain plasticity, beyond neurogenesis, may bridge the prevailing theories. The term "neural plasticity" encompasses an array of mechanisms, from the birth, survival, migration, and integration of new neurons to neurite outgrowth, synaptogenesis, and the modulation of mature synapses. This review critically assesses the role of adult hippocampal neurogenesis and the cell adhesion molecule, PSA-NCAM (which is known to be involved in many facets of neural plasticity), in depression and antidepressant treatment.
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