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The press gets it right for a change

Posted by stjames on December 5, 2003, at 22:48:21

Going Beyond Prozac
Depression: 10 million American adults suffer from a major depressive disorder
By Michael C. Miller, M.D.

According to the new model, depression stems not from a “chemical imbalance” (too little serotonin, too little norepinephrine) but from unhealthy nerve-cell connections in the regions of the brain that create our emotions. If that’s true—and the evidence is compelling—then the real goal of treatment is not to alter the brain’s chemistry but to repair its blighted circuitry.

Overexposure to stress hormones slows the growth of nerve fibers in a region of the brain called the hippocampus. This brain center allows us to soak up sensory input, link experience to emotion and store all of it as coherent memories. The hippocampus is typically small in depressed people, with some brain cells lost and some shrunken. Experts suspect it is one of the structures central to the condition.

The idea that depression is linked to stalled nerve-cell growth or faulty connections may explain an old mystery. If antidepressant medications boost neurotransmitter concentrations immediately (which they do), why does it often take six weeks or longer to feel better? Recent experiments in mice tell us that antidepressants stimulate the growth of new hippocampal nerve cells, which form new connections with older nerve cells. This process takes several weeks. If drugs like Prozac ease depression by inadvertently boosting neurogenesis, the thinking goes, drugs designed specifically for that purpose might bring surer relief while causing fewer side effects.

It may take us decades to understand the biology of depression. What we need in the meantime is as many unique treatments as we can get. We may not want a mood dialer as close at hand as the TV remote. But for those stuck on the despair channel, the need for new options is urgent. With any luck, these new ideas will soon deliver better ways to tune the only mood organ we have: the brain.

<end quote>

So, an almost decades old model of depression
and neurogenisis is the "new" model ?!




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