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Re: what happens with long term depression...?

Posted by dj on August 25, 1999, at 10:39:57

In reply to what happens with long term antidepressant use?, posted by Iris on August 22, 1999, at 21:48:28


Health News for June 18, 1999

Depression linked to physical changes in brain

NEW YORK, Jun 18 (Reuters Health) -- Depression appears to affect the size of an area of the brain involved in learning and memory, report US researchers.

This area, called the hippocampus, tends to be smaller in people with a history of depression according to a new study.

In a study of 24 women ranging in age from 23 to 86 with a history of depression and 24 women with no such history, those with a history of depression had 9 to 13% smaller hippocampal volumes.

Study participants who had more bouts with depression had even smaller hippocampal volumes than those women who reported fewer episodes of depression, report a research team led by Dr. Yvette L. Sheline, a psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Their findings are published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The study involved using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to take three-dimensional pictures of the women's brain. They also found that a specific area in another brain structure associated with emotion, the amygdala, were smaller in women with a history of depression.

On average, women in the study experienced about five bouts of depression, with one women reporting 18 bouts of depression, the researchers wrote.

The more bouts of depression, the smaller the hippocampus in depressed patients, the team report.

Women with a history of depression also scored lower on a test measuring verbal memory, a key function of the hippocampus.

Researchers speculated that advanced age may promote volume loss in the hippocampus, but the new results suggest that depression alone is responsible for the smaller volumes.

Exactly how smaller hippocampal volumes are linked to depression is unclear, but previous research suggests that depressed people make too much cortisol, a stress hormone needed for hippocampal function. Sheline and colleagues hypothesize that high levels of stress hormones may have toxic effects on the hippocampus.

"The finding that depression can result in volume loss and that more depression can result in even greater volume loss underscores the importance of treating and preventing depression," Sheline and colleagues note in a statement

"Treatment not only can prevent suffering and restore quality of life. It also appears that treating depression may limit long-term damage," they suggest.

SOURCE: The Journal of Neuroscience 1999:19:5034-5043.




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