Those who let their depression fester for years may experience more inflammation in the brain, new research suggests. According to the study, long term depression can alter the brain and manifest into other mental disorders, a feat that is more apparent in people who have had this condition for more than 10 years.
The American Psychiatric Association defines depression as a serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. More than 300 million people of all ages suffer from this mental illness worldwide.
For this latest study, researchers focused on the effects of long-lasting depression on the brain as to establish whether the condition evolves much in the same way as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
“Greater inflammation in the brain is a common response with degenerative brain diseases as they progress, such as with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” said co-author of the study, Jeff Meyer from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada.
The results pointed to an increased possibility that depression is not only a biological disorder, but it can alter the brain to a point where the condition can’t be managed with available treatments.
To reach this conclusion, researchers monitored a total of 80 participants, out of which 25 had untreated depression for more than 10 years, 25 for less than 10 years, and 30 who had never been diagnosed. All the participants were evaluated with positron emission tomography scans (PET scans) to identify a type of protein, called microglia. This specific protein results from the brain’s inflammatory response to injury or illness.
Researchers explained that microglia makes more translocator proteins (TSPO) when inflammation in the brain occurs, something which can be picked up by PET imaging. They found that TSPO levels were nearly 30 percent higher in different brain regions among those with persistent depression, compared to the other two groups.
The study was published in the journal, The Lancet Psychiatry.
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