Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine discovered that depression might be caused by an aberration in brain-cell communication.
Should the study prove acceptable to the medical/scientific community, we could feasibly see a massive sea change in how depression is both perceived and treated.
The new depression research was conducted by Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Scott M. Thompson, Ph.D.
Thompson was the senior author of the paper that includes the results of his group's study, which was published online through Nature Neuroscience on Sunday, March 17.
"Instead of focusing on the levels of hormone-like chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, the scientists found that the transmission of excitatory signals between cells becomes abnormal in depression," Science Daily says.
Patients who suffer from depression are currently given antidepressant medication such as Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa. These function by stopping brain cells from absorbing serotonin, which means there should then be an upswing of its concentration in the brain.
At this time, according to Science Daily, that medication works for less than half the patients who take the pills.
"Because elevation of serotonin makes some depressed patients feel better, it has been thought for over 50 years that the cause of depression must therefore be an insufficient level of serotonin. The new University of Maryland study challenges that long-standing explanation," Science Daily says.
The site goes on to state that more than a quarter of all U.S. adults suffer from depression at one point or another in their lives. The World Health Organization believes that, by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide.
Depression causes twice as many deaths as homicide, is the third leading cause of death in the 14-to-25-year-old age range and is a leading risk factor when it comes to suicide.
"Dr. Thompson's groundbreaking research could alter the field of psychiatric medicine, changing how we understand the crippling public health problem of depression and other mental illness," said Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.
"Although more work is needed, we believe that a malfunction of excitatory connections is fundamental to the origins of depression and that restoring normal communication in the brain, something that serotonin apparently does in successfully treated patients, is critical to relieving the symptoms of this devastating disease," Thompson said.
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