Disturbance in the Force

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A new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine suggests that depression results from a disturbance in the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. The study indicates a major shift in our understanding of how depression is caused and how it should be treated. Instead of focusing on the levels of hormone-like chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, the scientists found that the transmission of excitatory signals between cells becomes abnormal in depression.

This research is from 2013 and was definitely news to me. The first revelation was that antidepressants (most of them) don’t actually increase serotonin in the brain, they stop the brain cells from absorbing it, so the concentration of serotonin goes up. Good to know what those frustrating little pills are doing all up in my mind space.

Serotonin is the buzzword for people who have depression, but apparently increasing serotonin only makes some depressed people feel better. The article described it as being at a party where lots of people are talking, and you’re trying to have a conversation. Serotonin enables you to talk louder so the other person can hear, but it doesn’t necessarily help the other person understand what you’re saying. The article concludes by saying researchers need to figure out how to make antidepressants deal with this miscommunication issue.

And so once again, another problem is caused by a lack of good communication. Poor little brain cells. They should go to counseling.

University of Maryland Medical Center. “Depression stems from miscommunication between brain cells; Study challenges role of serotonin in depression.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130318105329.htm>.

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