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Evaluating Taurine Levels in Hippocampus Could Help Detect Depression Early On

Taurine is an amino acid found in meat, fish and dairy products. It occurs as a free amino acid in the body rather than being used to build proteins, and it can cross the blood-brain barrier.

A recent study reported on September 5, 2023, in Biological Psychiatry, found low levels of taurine among young women with depression in an area of the brain involved in emotion, learning and memory.1

The study included 41 women between the ages of 18 and 29 years with major depressive disorder who were not being treated with antidepressant drugs. The group was matched for age with 43 women who did not have the disorder. Concentrations of taurine were measured in several areas of the brain using magnetic resonance spectroscopy to test the hypothesis that brain levels of taurine are related to major depression.

Researchers found significantly lower hippocampal taurine levels in depressed women than among nondepressed women. They did not find differences in taurine concentrations between the groups in the other measured brain regions.

The authors explained that measuring hippocampal taurine levels “may provide a supplementary tool for early detection of major depressive disorder at relatively young ages.” These findings highlight a potential link between taurine levels in the hippocampus and depression and could provide a preventative approach for detecting and treating depressive disorders.

“This study will promote research on the role of taurine in the hippocampus and its relationship with depression,” stated Jee-Hyun Cho, who is the leader of the Korea Basic Science Institute research team for this study. “We plan to conduct follow-up research on changes of taurine concentrations in the brain via long-term observation of depression patients, as well as the effect of taurine intake as a treatment for depression.”


Apply What You’ve Learned: Depression

  • Depression is characterized by low mood and loss of interest in pleasurable activities. It affects an estimated 5 percent of people worldwide and is experienced more often by women than men.2 The condition often goes undiagnosed, untreated or undertreated.3
  • The most common type of depression is major depressive disorder. Other types of depression include persistent depressive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, substance- or medication induced depressive disorder, and depression associated with medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
  • Diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode include depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day; diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day; change of over 5 percent body weight during a month or changes in appetite nearly every day; difficulty sleeping or sleeping too long nearly every day; repetitive agitated movements or slowness; fatigue nearly every day; feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day; difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness nearly every day; and thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide plans or attempts.4
  • As with many conditions, healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet and regular physical activity can help.5,6 Optimal intake of specific nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, zinc and B vitamins, is also important.7-10


  1. Song Y et al. Biol Psychiatry. 2023 Sep 9:S0006-3223(23)01558-5.
  2. Depressive disorder (depression). World Health Organization. 2023 Mar 31.
  3. Williams SZ et al. SSM Popul Health. 2017 Dec;3:633-638.
  4. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision. Arlington VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2022.
  5. Lassale C et al. Mol Psychiatry. 2019 Jul;24(7):965-986.
  6. Morres ID et al. Depress Anxiety. 2019 Jan;36(1):39-53.
  7. Liao Y et al. Transl Psychiatry. 2019 Aug 5;9(1):190.
  8. Vellekkatt F et al. J Postgrad Med. 2019 Apr-Jun;65(2):74-80.
  9. Yosaee S et al. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2022 Jan-Feb:74:110-117.
  10. Borges-Vieira JG et al. Nutr Neurosci. 2023 Mar;26(3):187-207.

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