Depressed Brains Work Differently Than Healthy Ones

Think depression is all in your head? It is . . . in the sense that the brain of someone who is depressed is genuinely neurochemically different than the brain of someone who is not.

A new study conducted in the UK, published in PLOS One, has discovered that depressed people process information differently than people who are not depressed. Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of people with depression and those without. During the scans, subjects had to list adjectives that described themselves, and then ones that described the Queen, the reasoning being that the Queen is a figure they’d all be familiar with but one completely removed from their everyday lives.

As you might expect, those with depression used fewer positive words and more negative ones in describing themselves. However, the fMRI scans revealed that those with depression had significantly greater levels of blood oxygen in their medial superior frontal cortex, a region of the brain related to processing information related to the self. That said, the brain activity was only different when subjects were talking about themselves—when they were talking about the Queen, there was no difference in blood oxygen.

According to Dr. May Sarsam, a co-author of the study, “Thought and neurochemistry should be considered as equally important in our understanding of mental health difficulties such as depression.” We agree, and if you haven’t already, we hope you start taking your mental heath seriously.


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