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Levodopa Reverses Inflammation Effects on Brain’s Reward System, Improving Depression Symptoms

A recent study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine has determined that levodopa, a drug commonly prescribed for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, can reverse the effects of inflammation on the reward system in the brain and improve symptoms associated with depression.[0] Published in Nature’s Molecular Psychiatry, the study was conducted in 40 depressed patients with a range of C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a blood biomarker produced and released in response to inflammation.

The study found that levodopa reversed the effects of inflammation on the brain’s functional connectivity in reward circuitry and anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) in depressed individuals with higher CRP levels.[0] Principal investigator and senior author Jennifer C. Felger, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory School of Medicine, stated, “This research demonstrates the translational potential for use of inflammation-related deficits in functional connectivity and could have important implications for the future investigations of precision therapies for psychiatric patients with high inflammation.”[1]

Moreover, Felger noted that the effect of levodopa was specific to depressed patients with higher inflammation, and that this functional connectivity may be used to assess the responsiveness of the brain to novel treatments that might be targeted to this subtype of depressed patients in future studies and clinical trials.[0]

Levels of inflammation can be easily measured by simple blood tests, such as CRP, which are readily available in clinics and hospitals throughout the U.S. With this information, healthcare providers may be able to identify those who may benefit from treatments that target inflammation and reward circuitry, ultimately improving symptoms associated with depression.[2]

0. “Can a Dopamine Drug Help the Inflamed and Depressed Brain?” Technology Networks, 27 Jan. 2023,

1. “A drug that increases dopamine can reverse the effects of inflammation on the brain in depression” Medical Xpress, 27 Jan. 2023,

2. “A drug that increases dopamine can reverse the effects of inflammation on the brain in depression, Emory study shows” Emory News Center, 27 Jan. 2023,

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