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What happens in our brain when a person is depressed?
Question Date: 2021-01-27
Answer 1:

Thanks so much for your excellent question.

Depression, or major depressive disorder as psychologists call it, is characterized by low mood, low self-esteem, low energy, and a loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities. As a disorder, depression lasts longer and is more severe than sadness. Scientists are still discovering all the ways in which depression affects the brain, but research suggests that depression affects the brain’s structure and function.

Studies using neuro-imaging methods like fMRI show that the size of some brain regions are different for those with depression. For example, the hippocampus, a brain area associated with how we form and store memories, is often smaller in people with depression. A leading explanation for this finding is that depressed people are often stressed, and stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol, which slows down the growth of nerve cells (neurons) in the hippocampus.

Depression also changes how the brain functions. People with depression have decreased levels of certain neurotransmitters, chemicals that neurons use to send messages to each other. Anti-depressant medications work by trying to correct the levels of these neurotransmitters. Also, the brains of people with depression can be hyperactive. For instance, the amygdala, an area of the brain involved with emotions like fear, tends to be more responsive in those with depression.

Depression can affect the brain in all these ways and more. Scientists everyday are still trying to figure out the causes, effects, and treatments for depression in this active area of research!

Thanks again,

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