Depression: News From the Field

What does a mouse, tai chi and brain stimulation have in common? Current depression studies.

Here is the news of depression therapy.

First of all, Barrow Neuromodulation Center in Phoenix, Arizona has started a pioneering study of depressed people’s brain activity in order to treat their depression with deep brain stimulation (DBS), which means that they implant an electrode into your brain after pinpointing the area responsible for your mental problems, then the device they call a brain pacemaker sends electrical signals to your brain to alleviate the symptoms of your depression.

What they are doing in the clinical trial is creating two groups of participants: depressed and non-depressed. Both groups are going to be shown some very sad photos and videos while going through MRI. When brain responds to the stimulation, MRI scan will pinpoint what happens and in which areas of the brain. More details please

So far only people with severe depression under the observation of the psychiatrist can participate in the trials, but nonetheless this is some exciting information which will help us to understand and control mental illnesses more in the future.

Secondly, the scientists in Los Angeles, California discovered that implementing tai chi among other depression help methods for the older patients improve their depression levels more than for those who use more traditional depression treatment. They also achieve better memory, awareness and have more energy.

What can I say? Only that I’m not surprised!

Tai chi combines exercise with a sort of meditative and breathing technique, which not only beats your depression by producing endorphins in your body, but also relaxes you and changes your brain waves activity.

At last, there is some progress in gene therapy studies. I’m very dubious about this one though!

There is a gene p11 (protein) that in 2006 was found to stimulate serotonin (brain chemical) production in the brain. Serotonin as you know is one of the brain chemicals, lack of which is responsible for our depression. So the scientists are trying to see if they can add p11 to certain areas of our brain to battle depression. Of course they are not experimenting on human brain but instead on mice.

They created genetically modified mice lacking gene p11 and injected them with certain virus making them behaviorally depressed, then they injected them with p11, and voila the mice appeared lacking depression. This is it in the nutshell.

They also studied 17 brains of deceased humans, some depressed and some not, and found that depressed ones had less p11. Pretty gruesome, but this is genetic studies for you, guys.

This is a very invasive procedure, and the implications for human brain are unknown. But I think we still should keep an eye out for what else they find out about p11 and see what kind of development is next in this fascinating and very dangerous field of research.

This is all for today, and if you know more about it, please share!

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