New research published in the April issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine reveals that systemic inflammation causes an increase in depressive symptoms and metabolic changes in the parts of the brain responsible for mood and motivation. With this finding, researchers can begin to test potential treatments for depression for patients that experience symptoms that are related to inflammation in the body or within the brain. Multiple studies in rodents have shown that inflammation in the body has effects on the brain. This has also been shown in a few human studies - both through measurements of behavioral changes and brain imaging - when subjects were engaged in various computer tasks. The study "Glucose Metabolism in the Insula and Cingulate Is Affected by Systemic Inflammation in Humans, " however, for the first time measured brain activity when subjects were at rest.
Depressed individuals with a tendency to ruminate on negative thoughts, i.e. to repeatedly think about particular negative thoughts or memories, show different patterns of brain network activation compared to healthy individuals, report scientists of a new study in Biological Psychiatry The risk for depression is increased in individuals with a tendency towards negative ruminations, but patterns of autobiographic memory also may be predictive of depression. When asked to recall specific events, some individuals have a tendency to recall broader categories of events instead of specific events. This is termed overgeneral memory and, like those who tend to ruminate, these individuals also have a higher risk of developing depression. These self-referential activities engage a network of brain regions called the default mode network, or DMN.
People with severe depression are constantly despondent, lacking in drive, withdrawn and no longer feel joy. Most suffer from anxiety and the desire to take their own life. Approximately one out of every five people in Germany suffers from depression in the course of his/her life - sometimes resulting in suicide. People with depression are frequently treated with psychotherapy and medication. "However, many patients are not helped by any therapy, " says Prof. Dr. Thomas E. SchlĂ pfer from the Bonn University Medical Center for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy. "Many spend more than ten years in bed - not because they are tired, but because they have no drive at all and they are unable to get up." One possible alternative is "deep brain stimulation, " in which electrodes are implanted in the patient's brain.
There's a high rate of depression among patients with hepatitis C, but a standard treatment for the disease includes a drug, interferon, that can cause depression. In a review article, researchers tackle the complexities of diagnosing and managing depression before and after initiating treatment with interferon. Dr. Murali S. Rao of Loyola University Medical Center is a co-author of the study, published in the International Journal of Interferon, Cytokine and Mediator Research. "Depression is a relatively frequent and potentially serious complication of interferon therapy for hepatitis C virus infection, " the researchers write. "However, other etiologies [causes] of depression may coexist and have to be carefully excluded." Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the United States.
Anhedonia is the inability to gain pleasure from typically pleasurable experiences. It is a common characteristic amongst many individuals who suffer from depression, schizophrenia and some other mental illnesses. However, what causes the condition still remains unclear. A new study in the journal Neuron reveals that neuroscientists from the University of North Carolina at the Chapel Hill School of Medicine may have literally enlightened the answer, which could pave the way for discovering new mental health therapies. Researchers manipulated the wiring of a specific population of brain cells deep in a portion of a midbrain area, which is known to promote behavioral responses to reward by using a combination of genetic engineering and laser technology. Leading researcher, Garret D. Stuber, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Cell and Molecular Physiology, and the UNC Neuroscience Center declared: "For many years it's been known that dopamine neurons in the ventral midbrain, the ventral tegmental area, or VTA, are involved in reward processing and motivation.