Targeting neurosteroids

Building upon long-standing multidisciplinary and multi-departmental collaborations already in place at Washington University School of Medicine, scientists at the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research focus their attention on neuroactive steroids, or neurosteroids.

Neurosteroids are produced in the nervous system from cholesterol. They have the ability to alter brain function and may play an important role in regulating cognition, emotion and motivation.

Current evidence suggests that changes in neurosteroid levels are associated with mood disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, alcoholism, sleep disorders, chronic pain, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Research findings also suggest that the production of neurosteroids in the brain may be affected by stress and by particular disorders such as depression.


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Institute scientists believe that replacing or enhancing depleted neurosteroid levels with synthetic neuroactive steroids may be effective in alleviating altered stress responses allowing the brain to function more normally.

The core faculty members in the Institute have conducted collaborative inter-disciplinary research on natural and synthetic neurosteroid molecules and investigated those substances as potential anesthetic agents as well as possible treatments for psychiatric illnesses.

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Current studies

The development of neurosteroid molecules in the lab offers unique ways to alter brain networks and ultimately provide new treatment alternatives for those affected by psychiatric disorders.

In addition to the potential for developing new sedatives and anesthetics, neurosteroids offer the potential to have a broad impact on many different types of psychiatric illnesses, including those associated with:

  • Stress / depression
  • Memory disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Neuropsychiatric trauma
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy
  • Schizophrenia

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