Making your body warmer has a dramatic antidepressant effect, according to a new report published in the prestigious journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Clemens Janssen, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, leads researchers in studying approximately 30 people with depression who were also not receiving any treatments. About half were randomized to receive whole-body hyperthermia (WBH), which utilized a setup to raise their core body temperature to 38.5 degrees Celsius (37 degrees being the normal temperature). The remaining individuals received a placebo treatment which mimicked the “Hot-Box” hyperthermia treatment, but at a much lower setting.
The results: Although both groups became less depressed following the treatment (which was just one session, lasting 2-3 hours), the active WBH group improved much more than the placebo group on the HDRS depression rating scale over subsequent weeks.
To put this into perspective, the average Antidepressant medication reduces HAMD points by ~3 to 4 points. Although placebo effect may be present, the study points to a more natural remedy for a more serious problem and could shed some hopeful light to future studies.
The ability for our bodies to get warmer is all about the brain regions: In humans, exposure to cutaneous heating (41°C) activates the mid orbitofrontal cortex, the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, and the ventral striatum, with the degree of activation being associated with subjective pleasantness ratings made in response to the warm temperature.