Study finds that depression is due to abnormal connection between neurons
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have made exciting new discoveries about the neurological mechanisms underlying depression. Latest studies show that this disorder is due to poor communication between neurons, suggesting a different perspective than what was previously thought about depression. The study results, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal that, in depression, there is an abnormal transmission of excitatory signals between neurons. Depression is a mood disorder that manifests with sad, loss of energy and interest, anxiety, restlessness, and can even lead to suicide. Depression is common among American and World Health Organization estimates that by 2020, depression will become the second leading cause of disability in the world. According to statistics, between 2005 and 2008, one in 10 Americans were diagnosed and treated for depression.
Current treatment that is administered for this disorder aims to increase the level of serotonin in the brain: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa. Although treatment is only effective in half the patients, it was long believed that the lack or the low level of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain, is responsible for depression onset. But recent studies conducted by senior author led Scott M. Thompson, Ph.D., Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, show that depression is actually based on other mechanisms. E. Albert Reece, MD, Ph.D., MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the research of Dr. Thompson, could alter the psychiatric medicine field because it comes with a different perspective on depression.
One of the findings of the study was that serotonin strengthens communication between neural cells. On this point, Dr. Thompson noted that serotonin amplifies excitatory interactions between brain cells in regions important in cognitive and emotional functions. To see what exactly is the role of serotonin in depression, the researchers experimented on rats and found that stress has no effect on the level of serotonin in the brains of mice depressed. It is known that sustained communication between neurons underlies memory and learning processes, and researchers hypothesis (according to which poor communication contributes to depression) explains why depressed people face a number of problems regarding concentrating or making decisions. “Although more work is needed, we believe that a malfunction of excitatory connections is fundamental to the origins of depression”, Dr.Thompson said.