Depression's physical source discovered

Understanding of the physical root of depression has been advanced, thanks to new research. Researchers have identified the lateral orbitofrontal cortex as the area of the brain affected by depression. This discovery could open up possible new treatments, say the researchers.

The region of the brain that serves as the physical source of feelings of depression has been identified, with new MRI data being the latest evidence to show that depression isn't just a 'frame of mind'.

Investigators traced depression, one of the most common mental ailments in the world, to the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for a non-reward mechanism. According to the research team, this is likely the reason people living with depression often feel a sense of loss, disappointment and low self-esteem.

The lateral orbitofrontal cortex is also connected to the brain region involved in one's sense of self, so when that part of the brain is activated, it also has the potential to lead to thoughts of low self-esteem and personal loss.

Additionally, depression is associated with low connectivity between the brain's reward area within the medial orbitofrontal cortex and its memory systems, which could help explain why those with the condition have a reduced ability to focus on happier memories.

During the study, the team analyzed brain scans for almost 1,000 people in China using high-precision MRI. By using this technique, they were able to observe changes in the connections between the medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortex. The authors say finding the physical root of depression will help develop more advanced treatments.

"Our finding, with the combination of big data we collected around the world and our novel methods, enables us to locate the roots of depression." said Professor Jianfeng Feng.

By going to the root cause of depression, the researchers are hoping that their discoveries could be used to aid in innovating depression treatment.

"More than one in ten people in their life time suffer from depression, a disease which is so common in modern society and we can even find the remains of Prozac (a depression drug) in the tap water in London." Professor Feng continued.

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