The Science Behind Depression

Areas of the brain that plays a role in depression

Tonya Phillips

Areas of the brain that plays a role in depression

Carsyn Hall

The Science Behind Depression
Part 2 of a 3 Part Series
Carsyn Hall

Lauren Geller, 17, started feeling different when school started in September of 2018. She noticed her mood started to change, but she didn’t know why. She progressively started to get worse, she didn’t want to do anything, didn’t want to get out of bed, or go to school. She felt hopeless because she didn’t know how to fix her sudden change of character. It wasn’t until April of 2019 when she was diagnosed with depression. The theories about depression don’t capture the complexity of this disease.

The most common reason for depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, also known as the chemical imbalance theory. This theory states that these conditions are caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters between nerve cells in the brain, according to Healthline. For example, depression is thought to be the result of a lack of serotonin, which is known as the happy hormone for its contribution to happiness, mood, and social behavior in the brain. However, it’s still unclear if low levels of serotonin play a role in depression or if depression causes a fall in serotonin.

Health Harvard states that the areas in the brain that play major roles in depression and mood are the amygdala, the thalamus, and the hippocampus. Geller started going to therapy and was put on a medicine called Prozac. It made things worse, making her feel suicidal. She started seeing a psychiatrist and switched to a medicine called Zoloft.

The amygdala is located in the frontal part of the brain and is essential to feel and perceive emotions such as anger, sorrow, and sexual arousal. Activity in the amygdala is higher when a person has clinical depression, meaning that the person suffering from this disease is having constant recalls of emotional memories or trauma.

The thalamus is a small structure within the brain that’s just above the brainstem and relays sensory signals to the cerebral cortex. Due to its it’s link to pleasant and unpleasant feelings, it’s possible that bipolar disorder may result from problems in the thalamus. Stress signals a part of your brain known as the hypothalamus, which is responsible for hormonal activities that could have an impact on depression as well.

The hippocampus is located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain and is responsible for the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Stress is said to suppress the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, which causes sluggish and low moods. All of these areas can contribute to the symptoms and effects of depression.

Lower than normal levels of neurotransmitters can lead to symptoms such as feelings of hopelessness, overeating or loss of appetite, insomnia, irritability, feeling numbness, thoughts of hurting yourself or others, and other symptoms regarding the inability to carry out actions.

Untreated depression is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year olds, according to World Health Organization. The world is full of adolescent teens who need help, so support the ones who are suffering from this killing disease.

As Lauren Geller said, “It was a long process, but it has gotten better. My struggle with depression is still not over.”