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Dr. Krista Lanctôt

Improving treatment of post-stroke depression

There are a lot of misconceptions about post-stroke depression, which affects about a third of stroke patients.

For starters, it’s not just a psychological reaction to having the stroke. It may also reflect brain damage caused by stroke.

Biologic and structural changes in the brain likely contribute, says Dr. Krista Lanctôt, a senior scientist and CPSR researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The same factors lead to cognitive changes after stroke.

Symptoms “impede recovery and increase mortality,” explains Dr. Lanctôt, who is working with geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Nathan Herrmann, also at Sunnybrook, on a clinical trial of the drug lithium. They want to see if lithium can increase recovery of brain tissue and protect against depression and cognitive loss. Recruitment is ongoing for the trial.

Along with post-doctoral researcher Dr. Walter Swardfager, Dr. Lanctôt and Dr. Herrmann are also studying some of the biological factors behind cognitive decline and depression, particularly understanding how inflammatory and genetic factors influence risk.

In the end, the researchers hope to improve prevention and treatment.