Study Shows Direct Manipulation Of Brain Can Reverse Effects Of Depression
These immediate interventions to the brain aim to reduce the symptoms of severe mental disorders, but are usually a last holiday resort for sufferers or used in the context of specialist scientific centers and research tests. We realize that the brain goes through changes when a person is depressed or has a similar mood disorder. But part of the problem with neuroscientific research is that it’s unclear whether these structural changes cause or are caused by, the condition. In an intriguing new research of depression released in the journal Neuron, analysts have looked into a new direct involvement strategy to battle the symptoms and ramifications of depressive disorder.
The team induced abnormal brain activity just like depression in mice and then manipulated various circuits of the brain to successfully control and reverse the effects. This suggests that brain changes could indeed lead to and predate, the development of mental disorders. The implication is that with the right techniques, these changes could be reversed and so improve the patient’s mental disorder.
The new technique works by implanting electrodes in four key areas in the mouse’s brain – the prefrontal cortex, and three sub-areas of the limbic system: the nucleus accumbens, the ventral tegmental area, and the amygdala. By measuring electrical signals between these areas, neuroscientists could actually determine the useful cable connections between them and understand how these parts of the brain talk to one another during normal brain activity.
The mice were then repeatedly exposed to chronic stress in the form of “social defeat”, which identifies losing a confrontation in a cultural setting, and may cause behaviors in animals similar to human being depression. Previously observed connections between regions of the brain were actually modified by this stress, creating a “neural personal” of unhappiness in the brain as the research workers recorded how the neural signaling transformed. Amazingly, the team was able to invert this abnormality in the anxious mice’s brain activity. This represents the first time a clear parallel has been proven between a model of depression and a functional neural network.
What’s more, these findings are well backed-up. The prefrontal cortex and limbic areas are known to be connected to depression in humans already. The amygdala is considered to have a key role in processing how important emotional material is to a person, and how they respond to it – as the mice react to their stressful situations.
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The wider limbic system and prefrontal cortex are essential in regulating the impact our feelings have on our cognitive abilities, such as memory, which in turn causes us to behave in a different way when we are stressed or frustrated. The key element of this research is manipulating the connectivity of the prefrontal cortex, for which there is further evidence that reinforces the theory that this could be imperative to treating depression.
Transcranial direct current excitement, which manipulates the brain similarly, is already being trialed as a treatment for unhappiness, with results showing some evidence of a positive effect for sufferers. Since this research concurs with what we realize about disposition disorders, this could start new avenues for treatment certainly.