I came across an interesting new research study regarding depression. The idea is that our minds react to stressful life events in the same way our bodies react to physical wounding, with an automatic attempt to heal ourselves. Some people do experience a period of depression that self-corrects. For others this process goes wrong.
Science Daily describes it this way:
Just as the body’s repair mechanisms for physical injury can sometimes result in chronic pain and inflammation, so too can the response to psychological trauma, resulting in chronic depression.
I am intrigued by the idea of stressful life events leading to microdamage in the brain! It fits with my understanding that we are greatly impacted by our environment and traumatic events. I look forward to learning more about this and the treatment implications. I am including the abstract below with links to the full articles.
Depression is a major contributor to the global burden of disease and disability, yet it is poorly understood. Here we review data supporting a novel theoretical model for the biology of depression. In this model, a stressful life event leads to microdamage in the brain. This damage triggers an injury repair response consisting of a neuroinflammatory phase to clear cellular debris and a spontaneous tissue regeneration phase involving neurotrophins and neurogenesis. During healing, released inflammatory mediators trigger sickness behavior and psychological pain via mechanisms similar to those that produce physical pain during wound healing. The depression remits if the neuronal injury repair process resolves successfully. Importantly, however, the acute psychological pain and neuroinflammation often transition to chronicity and develop into pathological depressive states. This hypothesis for depression explains substantially more data than alternative models, including why emerging data show that analgesic, anti-inflammatory, pro-neurogenic and pro-neurotrophic treatments have antidepressant effects. Thus, an acute depressive episode can be conceptualized as a normally self-limiting but highly error-prone process of recuperation from stress-triggered neuronal microdamage.
The injury repair response has neuroinflammatory and neuroregenerative phases.
Released inflammatory mediators elicit sickness behavior and psychological pain.
Neurotrophin- and neurogenesis- mediated regeneration normally resolves the injury.
However, both neuroinflammation and psychological pain are prone to chronicity.
Karen Wager-Smith, Athina Markou. Depression: A repair response to stress-induced neuronal microdamage that can grade into a chronic neuroinflammatory condition? Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.09.010
University of California — San Diego (2010, October 20). New theory links depression to chronic brain inflammation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/10/101020091857.htm