Major depressive disorder is a growing and poorly understood pathology. Due to technical and ethical limitations, a significant proportion of the research on depressive disorders cannot be performed on patients, but needs to be investigated in animal paradigms. Over the years, animal studies have provided new insight in the mechanisms underlying depression. Several of these studies have used PET imaging for the non-invasive and longitudinal investigation of the brain physiology. This review summarises the findings of preclinical PET imaging in different experimental paradigms of depression and compares these findings with observations from human studies. Preclinical PET studies in animal models of depression can be divided into three main different approaches: (a) investigation of glucose metabolism as a biomarker for regional and network involvement, (b) evaluation of the availability of different neuroreceptor populations associated with depressive phenotypes, and (c) monitoring of the inflammatory response in phenotypes of depression. This review also assesses the relevance of the use of PET imaging techniques in animal paradigms for the understanding of specific aspects of the depressive-like phenotypes, in particular whether it might contribute to achieve a more detailed characterisation of the clinical depressive phenotypes for the development of new therapies for depression.
© 2023. The Author(s).