Study Uncovers New Brain Mechanism That May Be Responsible for Depression

By Staff Writer

Overactive cells in a particular part of the brain may be responsible for the symptoms of depression, according to a new study from the University of California, San Diego. The findings may lead to improved treatments for the condition at a drug rehab and mental health facilities.

The brain area in question is a small region known as the lateral habenula. Doctors have long known that disappointing and saddening events trigger activity in this structure, but it has never previously been implicated with the long-term negative emotions associated with depression.

However, after taking scans of the brains of two groups of mice (one that was trained to show signs of depression and one that was not) the researchers found that depressed study subjects had constant activity in the lateral habenula.

Furthermore, the team showed that it is possible to suppress this brain activity through electrical stimulation. After normal levels of activity were restored, the test subjects stopped showing symptoms of depression.

The researchers said that their findings could have major implications for the treatment of depression, as they point to possible new therapy approaches.