Depression is a common illness that inflicts millions of people worldwide. Although the causes are still being determined, growing evidence has lead scientist to conclude that biochemicals in the brain such as serotonin, hormones, and other factors lead to depression. Extensive research has been conducted within the last decade and continues today. Scientists hope to categorize the type of depression patients suffer from and profile them by identifying biological markers. The ultimate goal is to determine what types of chemical imbalances in the brain cause depression so proper and effective treatment could be prescribed to patients.
Geneticists have discovered that depression frequently run in the family. They have tried to identify the gene that causes it, however it is yet to be found. Geneticists are currently focusing on specific neurotransmitters of the monoamine class. Joseph J. Schildkraut of Harvard University hypothesized that the lack of norephinephrine within certain parts of the brain causes depression, and mania is caused by an abundance of it. His hypothesis currently holds true and is called the catecholamine hypothesis of mood disorders.
Another hypothesis state that the depletion of serotonin plays a role in depression. The lack of serotonin causes norephinephrine to fall to low levels thus causing depression. However, serotonin is does not only affect norephinephrine in the brain but other parts including the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the cortical areas. These experiments involving serotonin were stemmed by the introduction of Prozac in the early 1980 s. In addition to serotonin and norephipherine, scientists are looking at the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus either stimulates of inhibits hormones from being produced in the pituitary gland in the brain.
Evidence indicates that chronic over-activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and the overproduction of corticotropin-releasing facto (CRF) add to depression. Scientists are unsure how genetics, monoamine, and hormonal findings work together in causing depression. However, research continues to find an explanation. Several experiments conducted included depriving newborn rats from their mothers to examine the changes of CRF-containing-neurons.
The experiment showed a permanent increase in CRF gene expression. A similar experiment was conducted on the Bonnet macaque monkeys, and similar findings resulted. Increases of CRF were evident in the monkeys who were neglected by their mothers. These studies conducted will hopefully explain the causes of depression so that proper diagnosis to patients can be made. In addition, determining what causes depression will allow doctors to prescribe the proper medication for patients. Since the leading causes of depression are due to biochemicals within the brain, illnesses such as, bipolar disorder, Taurtette s syndrome, and other disorders which may cause depression can be treated.
Furthermore, informing the public of the causes of depression may help people find help and solutions for their depression. It may also motivate people to prevent children from being neglected by parents. Scientific findings are important for improving medicine as well as society. Major depression affects millions of people and is one of the major causes for suicide. Therefore it is important to find ways to prevent and stop depression.