Yale Trial Looks at Ketamine Treatment for Parkinson Patients With Depression

Medically reviewed by 
Mindbloom Review Board
Published on 
July 26, 2022
Updated on 

Yale researchers are working with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to explore how ketamine can potentially help Parkinson’s patients who suffer from depression. 

The nervous system disorder includes symptoms like tremors, loss of balance, and stiffness, which worsen over time, and significantly impact patients’ quality of life. 

That’s why half of people with the disease also suffer from depression, Sophie Holmes, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale, told News8 WTNH.

“This is really the first study that is looking at a new intervention which I think should draw up the discovery of hopefully a new generation of antidepressants for depression in Parkinson’s disease,” Holmes said

The ketamine trial will compare brain scans before and after treatment.

“[Ketamine] is actually a drug that looks like it’s working by modifying the way the cells in the brain are actually communicating with each other, allowing them to become more adaptive,” said Dr. Gerard Sanacora, director of the Yale Depression Research Program, told the outlet. 

The patients enrolled in the study have an early progression of the disease. Sanacora added that other studies have centered on motor issues prompted by the illness, rather than the emotional impact it can also have. He credited the potential benefits of ketamine treatment in patients with major depressive disorder, which in some cases has been life saving. 


This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. If you are in a life-threatening situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at +1 (800) 273-8255, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Important FDA Safety Information

Ketamine is not FDA-approved for the treatment of depression or anxiety. Learn more about off-label uses here.

Side effects of ketamine treatment may include: altered sense of time, anxiety, blurred vision, diminished ability to see/hear/feel, dry mouth, elevated blood pressure or heart rate, elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure, excitability, loss of appetite, mental confusion, nausea/vomiting, nystagmus (rapid eye movements), restlessness, slurred speech, synesthesia (a mingling of the senses).

Do not proceed with ketamine treatment if any of the following apply to you:

  • Allergic to ketamine
  • Symptoms of psychosis or mania
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • CHF or other serious heart problem
  • Severe breathing problem
  • History of elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure
  • History of hyperthyroidism
  • Other serious medical illness
  • Pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant

Ketamine has been reported to produce issues including, but not limited to, those listed below. However, lasting adverse side-effects are rare when medical protocols are carefully followed.

While ketamine has not been shown to be physically addictive, it has been shown to cause moderate psychological dependency in some recreational users.

  • In rare cases, frequent, heavy users have reported increased frequency of urination, urinary incontinence, pain urinating, passing blood in the urine, or reduced bladder size
  • Ketamine may worsen problems in people with schizophrenia, severe personality disorders, or other serious mental disorders.
  • Users with a personal or family history of psychosis should be cautious using any psychoactive substance, including ketamine, and discuss potential risks with your MindBloom® clinician before proceeding with treatment.
  • The dissociative effects of ketamine may increase patient vulnerability and the risk of accidents.

To promote positive outcomes and ensure safety, follow these ketamine treatment guidelines:

  • Do not operate a vehicle (e.g., car, motorcycle, bicycle) or heavy machinery following treatment until you’ve had a full night of sleep
  • Refrain from taking benzodiazepines or stimulants for 24 hours prior to treatment
  • Continue to take antihypertensive medication as prescribed
  • Avoid hangovers or alcohol intake
  • Refrain from consuming solid foods within 3 hours prior to treatment and liquids within 1 hour prior to treatment
  • Ketamine treatment should never be conducted without a monitor present to ensure your safety

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