A new brain study has found that there are major differences in brain chemistry between women with serious depression and healthy women.
Previous studies had found differences in the body's and brain's stress-response system among people with depression, but the new research has extended this finding to reveal specific differences between people with depression and those without the condition, in a particular brain-chemical system that is crucial to stress and emotions.
The study was carried out by researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Heath at the University of Michigan Medical School in the US. It used brain imaging, blood chemistry and other data from 14 women with major depression, and from 14 healthy women of about the same age and background.
The study found that the typically low levels of mood-related chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine that are seen in major depression are caused by an enzyme (MAO-A) which breaks down these other chemicals.
The variations that are seen between individuals with depression in the rates of loss of these chemicals may help explain why one person with depression may experience loss of appetite while another may not, why some people have more severe symptoms than others, and why some individuals respond differently to medication.
The study's authors claim that these findings are a huge step forward in the study of mental illness and that they will inform the design of new and better prevention strategies.
First Publishd in April 2007
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