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Exploring Hyperthermia as an Alternative Treatment for Depression

Photo by qwerty01 via iStock

This project investigates how hyperthermia – increasing one’s body temperature – can be used as a novel treatment for depression. 

In a previous, double-blind trial, researchers from the Center evaluated participants with depression using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and found that 60 percent of them had an antidepressant response, and 40 percent met the criteria for remission of depression during at least one assessment after having received the treatment. In addition, hyperthermia induced effects on the immune system that predicted antidepressant response.

Researchers involved in this line of work hope to find complementary and faster-acting treatments for depression than the treatments currently in use. Future research will include further exploration of the efficacy of hyperthermia as a viable treatment for depression and will seek to better understand the role of the immune system in this novel treatment modality.

People Working on This Study

Charles L. Raison
Affiliated Faculty at the Center for Healthy Minds, Mary Sue and Mike Shannon Chair for Healthy Minds, Children & Families, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
Angelica Medrano
Angelica Medrano
Former Research Coordinator, Center for Healthy Minds

Media Related to this Project

Inflammation, Saunas, and the New Science of Depression
Feb 17, 2020
Faculty member Charles Raison talks about depression and recent research on mind-body coherence and interventions
Can Going to a Sauna Make Me Happy?
Nov 30, 2018
Citing research from Center faculty member Charles Raison, this article shares how heat may produce a significant antidepressant effect
Whole-Body Hyperthermia Can Improve MDD Outcomes
Oct 13, 2017
A new study from Center faculty member Charles Raison suggests that whole-body hyperthermia might decrease depressive symptoms.
How Warming Yourself Up Could Banish the Blues: Two Hours in a Heated Chamber May Help Reset Chemicals in the Brain
Jul 25, 2016
Research from Center faculty Charles Raison suggests that heating the body may be a new way to treat depression

Related Publications

Janssen, C. W., Lowry, C. A., Mehl, M. R., Allen, J. J., Kelly, K. L., Gartner, D. E., Medrano, A., Begay, T. K., Rentscher, K., White, J. J., Fridman, A., Roberts, L. J., Robbins, M. L., Hanusch, K. U., Cole S. P., & Raison, C. L. (2016). Whole-body hyperthermia for the treatment of major depressive disorder: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 73(8):789-795. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1031 PMCID: Policy Exempt -- not funded by NIH grants
Raison, C. L., Hale, M. W., Williams, L., Wager, T. D., & Lowry, C. A. (2015). Somatic influences on subjective well-being and affective disorders: The convergence of thermosensory and central serotonergic systems. Frontiers in Psychology5, 1580. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01580
Hale, M. W., Lukkes, J. L., Dady, K. F., Kellya, K. J., Paul, E. D., Smith, D. G., Heinze, J. D., Raison, C. L., & Lowry, C. A. (2019). Interactions between whole-body heating and citalopram on body temperature, antidepressant-like behaviour, and neurochemistry in adolescent male rats. Behavioural Brain Research, 359, 428-39. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2018.11.029
Hale, M. W., Lukkes, J. L., Dady, K. F., Kelly, K. J., Paul, E. D., Smith, D. G., Heinze, J. D., Raison, C. L., & Lowry, C. A. (2017). Whole-body hyperthermia and a subthreshold dose of citalopram act synergistically to induce antidepressant-like behavioral responses in adolescent rats. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry79, 162-168.doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2017.06.006
Raison, C. L., Knight, J. M., & Pariante, C. (2018). Interleukin (IL)-6: A good kid hanging out with bad friends (and why sauna is good for health). Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 73, 1-2. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2018.06.008
Raison, C. L., Janssen, C. W., & Lowry, C. A. (2016). Hyperthermia for Major Depressive Disorder?—Reply JAMA Psychiatry. 73(10):1096-1097. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1917 PMCID: Policy Exempt – Not a peer-reviewed research article.
Hanusch, K. U., Janssen, C. H., Billheimer, D., Jenkins, I., Spurgeon, E., Lowry, C. A., & Raison, C. L. (2013). Whole-body hyperthermia for the treatment of major depression: associations with thermoregulatory cooling. American Journal of Psychiatry170(7), 802-804. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12111395
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