How Do Brain Networks Produce Major Depression
Psychologically, hallmarks of major depression include the overemphasis placed on negative events and emotions , and the state of anhedonia . Together, these factors conspire to make the depressed subject feel as though everything is terrible and that nothing is really worth doing. Two important brain regions for this are the amygdala, for negative emotions, and the nucleus accumbens, for pleasure .
Conclusion And Future Direction
In vivo MRI scans have made great achievements in the study of psychiatric disorders, which have resulted in the dawn of the understanding of the pathophysiology of psychosis, especially of MDD. Many brain region alterations have been reported, and some crucial circuits have also been revealed via imaging studies. The discovery of brain network put forward new ideas in the understanding of the disease of depression, providing effective stimulation sites and efficacy evaluations for the commonly used transcranial magnetic stimulation or deep brain stimulation techniques. In addition, these findings also suggest that MDD is not only due to local lesions but is also a multiloop disorder. However, previous studies still had limitations, and more research is needed in the future. First, most of the studies mentioned small sample sizes, which could have increased the falsepositive and falsenegative rates of the results. Therefore, multicenter cooperation not only would solve this problem of sample content but also could result in more indepth research. Second, the identification of significant lesions relies on longterm followups and the comparison of treated and nontreated patients. Future studies need to conduct longitudinal studies with larger samples. Moreover, using animal experiments to verify the neuroimaging findings and applying the results to humans is very important and will be a big step in the application of neuroimaging to the clinical field.
Nutrients: The Link Between Food & Mood
Food is more than energy for the brain. It also provides the building blocks for neurotransmitters and brain cells, as well as antioxidants to protect against inflammation. Not surprisingly, there is a growing body of evidence supporting a link between what we eat and our mental health. A review of the medical literature found that seafood, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables were the most helpful in preventing and recovering from depression.
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Do Adverse Experiences Always Result In Depression
Research documents that there is a strong relationship between adverse experience in childhoodsuch as verbal or physical abuse or household dysfunction caused by a mentally ill parentand the lifetime risk of depression. Studies show that verbal abuse more than doubles the lifetime risk of depression. Adverse experiences are a significant source of stress.
But whether they summon resources for successful coping or lead to despair depends in part on the situation and in part on the person. A child facing verbally or physically abusive treatment at home or school who has no means of escaping continuing injury is at elevated risk for developing depression. Situations may not be subject to changebut attitudes, interpretation, and meaning of experience are always under individual control and can confer resistance to depression and other disorders..
Genes’ Effect On Mood And Depression
Every part of your body, including your brain, is controlled by genes. Genes make proteins that are involved in biological processes. Throughout life, different genes turn on and off, so that in the best case they make the right proteins at the right time. But if the genes get it wrong, they can alter your biology in a way that results in your mood becoming unstable. In a person who is genetically vulnerable to depression, any stress can then push this system off balance.
Mood is affected by dozens of genes, and as our genetic endowments differ, so do our depressions. The hope is that as researchers pinpoint the genes involved in mood disorders and better understand their functions, depression treatment can become more individualized and more successful. Patients would receive the best medication for their type of depression.
Another goal of gene research, of course, is to understand how, exactly, biology makes certain people vulnerable to depression. For example, several genes influence the stress response, leaving us more or less likely to become depressed in response to trouble.
The evidence for other types of depression is more subtle, but it is real. A person who has a first-degree relative who suffered major depression has an increase in risk for the condition of 1.5% to 3% over normal.
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How Do Thinking Styles Influence Depression
Brooding over mistakes or unpleasant experiences, jumping to catastrophic conclusions from one or two setbacks, overgeneralizing from limited evidenceall are errors of thinking, or cognitive distortions, strongly linked to depression.
Such thinking mires the brain in negativity and, if unchecked, breed self-doubt and hopelessness. Whats more, studies show that negative thinking styles such as catastrophizing actually change physiology. Researchers have found that they enhance reactivity to painful stimulation and raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol and of pro-inflammatory agents in the blood. The inflammatory response brings on behavioral changes commonly associated with both sickness and depressionfatigue, slow reaction time, cognitive sluggishness, and loss of appetite.
How Does Loneliness Lead To Depression
Loneliness assaults the body and mind in multiple ways. By itself, it is felt as a major stress, and is linked to the release of stress hormones, which are known to impair such brain operations as learning and memory retrieval. Whats more, loneliness magnifies the perception of all other stresses. It diminishes functioning of the immune system and readily leads to inflammation, a known pathway to depression.
The emotional discomfort of loneliness makes us feel sad, and sadness saps our energy and slows functioning of all body systems. Companionship is such a powerful buffer to all human difficulty that loneliness is said to have even more of a detrimental effect on health than cigarette smoking.
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Susceptibility To Physical Health Issues And Illness
Stress hormones make your heart beat faster as if youre constantly in danger. Because your heart isnt meant to beat at high speeds for extended periods, this could lead to a life-threatening heart illness in the future.
Depression also impacts your digestive systems health, especially if you binge eat or take antidepressant medications. If you rapidly gain weight during a depressive episode, youre more likely to develop diseases closely tied to obesity, like diabetes. Conversely, depression may also cause someone to lose their appetite for food and experience rapid weight loss, which can be equally harmful to the body.
Some people may use drugs or alcohol as a way to deal with their symptoms of depression, leading to substance use disorders. In some cases, this substance abuse issue can develop into life-threatening addictions.
Depressive Disorder: Course Of Illness
The importance of treating this condition cannot be overestimated. The World Health Organization global burden of disease study places unipolar affective disorder amongst the 10 leading medical causes of disability in the world and second only to ischaemic heart disease.
Depression is a highly prevalent psychiatric disorder with a lifetime risk close to 20% and is associated with high levels of morbidity and mortality. Depressed patients are at higher risk of serious physical health problems such as coronary artery disease and diabetes and worsening of the prognosis of other medical conditions.
Follow-up studies show depression to be a long term, relapsing condition associated with significant morbidity and mortality and a tendency towards chronicity. Three quarters of the patients experience more than one episode of depression and the risk of recurrence is higher if the first episode occurs at a younger age and if there is a family history of depression. The risk of recurrence increases with each new episode and as the number of depressive episodes increases, the influence of life stress on recurrence wanes.
Given these findings, the need for effective treatment in the first episode of depression is obvious. Maintenance treatment for several months during remission is essential after an acute episode of depression to prevent relapse as well as long-term treatment to prevent recurrence in patients with more than one episode.
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Other Links Between Anxiety And The Brain
Another interesting relationship between anxiety and the brain is that long term anxiety may damage the brain in a way that could cause further anxiety. Researchers have found that when you leave your anxiety disorder untreated, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, hippocampus, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex all appear to decrease in size. The longer the anxiety goes untreated, the smaller and weaker they appear to be.
What’s interesting is that not only do these changes affect anxiety symptoms they also create anxious thoughts. Those with anxiety may feel their thoughts are completely natural, when in reality the brain contributes to that type of negative thinking.
The Role Of Biology In Depression: A Whole
Research has now proven that when it comes to mental health, it truly isnt all in your head. For depression, mood disorders, and other mental illnesses, we have to consider the health of the body as a whole.
In this section, we review the body systems that are currently thought to be most involved in stress and depression. Because this is an emerging field, this information is meant to illustrate the different types of biological issues we should be thinking about and is not meant to be definitive or complete.
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Depression Treatments On The Horizon
Researchers are studying other molecular pathways in the brain to see what role they may play in depression. It may be that rather than a simple deficiency in one specific brain chemical being the causative factor, some depression symptoms could be related to the relative levels of each type of neurotransmitter in different regions of the brain.
Rather than being a simple equation of some unknown factor causing low levels of one or more neurotransmitters and these low levels creating the symptoms of depression, the actual basis of depression is much more complex. While this complexity is often evident to people living with depression, medical professionals and researchers are still trying to understand the intricate nature of diagnosing and treating the condition.
For example, in addition to the role of neurotransmitters, we know there are multiple factors involved in causing depression ranging from genetic factors and childhood experiences to our present day-to-day lives and relationships. Even inflammation is being explored as a potential contributing factor.
Early Losses And Trauma
Certain events can have lasting physical, as well as emotional, consequences. Researchers have found that early losses and emotional trauma may leave individuals more vulnerable to depression later in life.
Profound early losses, such as the death of a parent or the withdrawal of a loved one’s affection, may resonate throughout life, eventually expressing themselves as depression. When an individual is unaware of the wellspring of his or her illness, he or she can’t easily move past the depression. Moreover, unless the person gains a conscious understanding of the source of the condition, later losses or disappointments may trigger its return.
Traumas may also be indelibly etched on the psyche. A small but intriguing study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that women who were abused physically or sexually as children had more extreme stress responses than women who had not been abused. The women had higher levels of the stress hormones ACTH and cortisol, and their hearts beat faster when they performed stressful tasks, such as working out mathematical equations or speaking in front of an audience.
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A New Framework For Understanding The Causes Of Depression
Chemical imbalances, genetics, and stress are all risk factors that play a supporting role in a much larger picture of depression. To fully understand the biological causes of depression, we have to use a bigger lens to look beyond the brain at the different body systems involved and their complex interactions.
While this may seem overwhelming at first, it gives us a reason to be hopeful. Because there are so many possible causes of depression, this means that there are just as many opportunities for healing beyond talk therapy and medications. Partnering with a doctor who considers comprehensive testing and treatment and uses a functional medicine approach to mental health may help you better understand these possibilities and find new avenues for healing.
Treating Anxiety When It Has A Brain Cause
Those that hear that their brains may be responsible for their anxiety often feel a bit hopeless, as though this means that their anxiety cannot be stopped or treated. Luckily, the brain is incredibly adaptive. It can respond to learning, and it can respond to experiences and mental abilities.
That’s why although there may be parts of your brain that create anxiety due to size, hormone production, neurotransmitter receptivity, etc., you can change these by learning relaxation tools and coping mechanisms that allow you to control your anxiety overall.
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Medication Recreational Drugs And Alcohol
Depression can be a side effect of a lot of different medicines. If you are feeling depressed after starting any kind of medication, check the patient information leaflet to see whether depression is a side effect, or ask your doctor. If you think a drug is causing your depression, you can talk to your doctor about taking an alternative, especially if you are expecting your treatment to last some time.
Alcohol and recreational drugs can both cause depression. Although you might initially use them to make yourself feel better, or to distract yourself, they can make you feel worse overall. See our pages on the mental health effects of recreational drugs and alcohol for more information.
Does Depression Have Some Hidden Trigger
Although depression most often arises in response to some kind of defeat, depression can seem to arise out of the blue, for no obvious reason. It may even arise when life appears to be going extremely well. What is often hidden from conscious awareness are basic beliefs about life and love and work, or ways of explaining lifes twists and turns, many of which are learned at home in the early years of life.
Additionally, people may reach goals theyve pursued for a long time, and find that they dont deliver the emotional rewards they secretly or openly expected. In such cases, people may feel they dont have the right to be depressed and may even feel ashamed of being depressed. Cognitive behavioral therapy is highly effective at unearthing and correcting such problematic views.
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Effect Of Depression On The Brain
Now its time to have your hands on the information youve been looking for. As per previously mentioned information you might have got an idea about the physical effects of depression. So, depression has a physical impact and symptoms, but can depression cause brain depression? The answer youll find below. The long-term effects of depression on the brain include the following.
Is Depression Caused By A Chemical Imbalance
The human brain is extremely complicated. Because antidepressants work by changing brain chemistry, some people have assumed that depression is caused by changes in brain chemistry which are then ‘corrected’ by the drugs. Some doctors may tell you that you have a ‘chemical imbalance’ and need medication to correct it.
But the evidence for this is very weak, and if changes to brain chemistry occur, we don’t know whether these are the result of the depression or its cause.
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Chapter : Why Do Some Parts Of The Brain Atrophy During Major Depression
In Chapter 6 we saw that severe mood symptoms are associated with hippocampal shrinkage . In this chapter, we look at what is happening inside the hippocampus that leads to this shrinkage. The answer includes both a reduction in cell size, and also in cell number. The reduction in number is associated with the slowing or stopping of a process called neurogenesis, the birth of brand new brain cells . There are some amazing photographs of neurogenesis in this chapter, as well as evidence that it is inhibited by mood symptoms.
Brain Shrinkage: loss of cells, or fewer new cells?
As discussed in Chapter 6, there is large-scale shrinkage of important brain areas when a person is stressed. In this chapter, well look at how that shrinkage is occurring.
There are two main ways that the brain is losing volume under stress: existing cells shrink, and the total number of cells decreases. The same brain chemistry seems to be involved in both of these processes. Well look at the full story of those chemicals in Chapter 10. Here, however, youll see evidence for each of these two brain-changing processes: shrinkage and cell number reductions.
Cell Number Reductions
First, lets see what neurogenesis looks like. In the following pictures, you can see neurons which have just been born. The arrow tips each point at a little tiny black dot. Thats the nucleus of a brand new cell .
Prenatal Depression Is A Common Problem
Its estimated that up to 1 in 5 women have some type of pregnancy-related mood or anxiety disorder, and this can be due to a number of risk factors according to Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, director of perinatal services at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, New York. Those include:
- History of depression or mood disorder
- Lack of familial or social support
- Issues with significant other
- Anxious or negative feelings about the pregnancy
- Pregnancy occurring at a young age
Physicians address depression with screening questions, appraisals by family members, behavioral monitoring during prenatal visits, and discussions with patients, says Gaither. Any findings that raise an alarm are referred for further evaluation with a psychiatrist, often along with assessment for an underlying medical cause for the issue, such as thyroid dysfunction.
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