Biological basis for the development of depression
Depression as a Mind-Body Problem can be characterized as a disorder resulting from a maladaptive chronic stress response. Depression often results when our beliefs and emotions are out of proportion to the true nature of external events. The mind prolongs rather than constrains the physiologic stress response. Depression is actually not a disorder of the brain or the mind alone since a dysfunction of the endocrine and immune systems can also contribute to compromises in the brain and central nervous system that are involved in depression.
Moreover, the contents of the mental states that initiate the sequence of events leading to depression are reflections of the person’s natural and social environment. Depression is ultimately the result of changes in the biochemical environment of one’s brain. These biochemical changes eventually affect the organization of the neuronal networks. This reorganization of the neuronal networks contributes to the development of depression.
Thus, a satisfactory account of depression requires an analysis of the interconnections among the central nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, as well as the mind and the environment. All of these factors support the description of depression as a psychoneuroimmunologic disorder.
BASIC BRAIN STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION
Cells within the nervous system, called neurons.The neuron is the basic working unit of the brain, a specialized cell designed to transmit information to other nerve cells, muscle, or gland cells.l parts of the body.
Neurons communicate with each other by transmitting chemical and electrical signals.However, there is not one straightforward uninterrupted route from the electrical signal originating with our sensory apparatus to transmit information form one neuron to another. So, how does the electrical signal manage to do this if the neuronal “wires” are not physically connected to each other?
The role of neurotransmitters
A neurotransmitter is a chemical substance, a “carrier” molecule that has the ability to transmit electrical signals from one neuron to another. There are various different kinds of neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurons are not connected to each other physically, instead there is a vast “sea” of space between them.
This space is of course not empty, however it is not possible for an electrical signal to pass through this space. This is where a neurotransmitter molecule enters the process. A neurotransmitter is a biochemical substance that gets released from a cell when the cell is activated. This neurotransmitter is released into the space between the cells. It travels across the void and reaches a cell on the other side of this space and activates it, allowing the electrical signal to travel further on down the lines of communication to deliver its message.
One main cause of depression is the reduction in the concentration of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. The decrease in the concentration of these key neurotransmitters leads to disturbed neuronal signal processing which in the long run leads to alterations in the structure of the neuronal networks. These structural changes are believed to be one of the main reasons for depression.
TRAUMA, STRESS AND DEPRESSION
Trauma and stressful events can disrupt the physiologic homeostasis of our bodies and brains.
Once an external event has ceased to be a stressor or threat to a human organism, an integrated system of negative feedback loops inhibits the continued production of specific hormones and effectively shuts down the stress response.
But prolonged exposure to real or perceived stressors can trigger prolonged secretion of stress hormones, thereby disrupting the feedback systems and causing a cascade of pathogenic events. The stress response is a double-edged sword. An acute stress response can protect an organism from external threats and reestablish homeostasis.
Conversely, a chronic stress response can cause the body’s defenses to become damaging rather than protective and result in a wide variety of disorders. Acute stress responses are adaptive. Chronic stress responses are often maladaptive and pathogenic.
Antidepressants can help the brain to heal
Antidepressants are helping the brain to maintain higher levels of concentration of the crucial neurotransmitters, hence helping depressed brain to heal. If the depression has lasted long time and has turned chronic it is often necessary to help the brain to increase the concentration of the key neurotransmitters so that positive structural changes can occur. After this artificial “boost” the brain can continue to heal itself without external help.
Often it is sufficient to take antidepressants only for a short period of time in order to start the process of healing. It is important not to continue the treatment for too long to prevent the brain from becoming dependent on external regulation of certain neurotransmitters. However, one should always trust one’s doctors advice regarding the length of the treatment period.
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