Pro­longed de­pres­sion hurts brain

The Timaru Herald - - WORLD -

BRI­TAIN: Feel­ing de­pressed for years causes changes in the brain that may mir­ror the progress of Alzheimer’s by trig­ger­ing the death of neu­rons, re­search has shown.

Un­treated de­pres­sion last­ing more than a decade leads to in­creased in­flam­ma­tion in the brain – a known risk fac­tor for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered.

Un­til now, de­pres­sion had not been con­sid­ered a de­gen­er­a­tive brain dis­ease. But the re­searchers, writ­ing in The Lancet Psy­chi­a­try jour­nal, said their find­ings sug­gested that ‘‘pro­gres­sive neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion it­self oc­curs in ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der’’.

Positron emis­sion to­mog­ra­phy (PET) brain scans were car­ried out on 50 de­pressed pa­tients, half of whom had suf­fered the con­di­tion for more than 10 years. Im­ages were also taken from a com­par­i­son group of 30 non-de­pressed in­di­vid­u­als.

Lev­els of translo­ca­tor pro­tein (TSPO), an in­flam­ma­tion marker made by mi­croglia im­mune cells, were mea­sured. Par­tic­i­pants with long-last­ing un­treated de­pres­sion were found to have 30 per cent more TSPO than those who had ex­pe­ri­enced de­pres­sion for shorter pe­ri­ods.

Lead au­thor Dr Jeff Meyer said: ‘‘Greater in­flam­ma­tion in the brain is a com­mon re­sponse with de­gen­er­a­tive brain diseases as they progress, such as with Alzheimer’s dis­ease and Parkin­son’s dis­ease.’’ The find­ings sug­gested that dif­fer­ent stages of de­pres­sion should be treated in dif­fer­ent ways, he said. – PA

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