Can Depression Cause Brain Damage?
There has always been a correlation between brain damage, as a result of a brain injury, and later onset depression or depression symptoms. But what if the reverse was true – what if recurring depression actually did physical damage to structures of the brain?
Size Matters When it Comes to Your Hippocampus
In a study published in Molecular Psychiatry, researchers have found that when people encounter repeated bouts of depression, their hippocampus shows clear, physical shrinkage. The hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for forming memories, also helps in developing healthy emotional behaviors.
Researchers began looking at the hippocampus because there was speculation as to whether a smaller hippocampus would lead to depression symptoms.
At the Brain and Mind Research Institute, researcher Ian Hickey built and cross-referenced a 9,000-person brain scan library. When comparing the healthy control brains to those that had experienced regular episodes of depression, he could reasonably conclude that depression actually does tangible, physical damage to the brain.
Further, when the subjects had started experiencing depression before the age of 21, their physical changes were most obvious.
Depression May Cause the Hippocampus to Shrink 10 Percent
Your hippocampus is a part of your limbic system, the area of your brain that houses all of the emotional aspects of your life. It dictates how we see ourselves and our understanding of us in the world. On average, researchers found that the hippocampus shrunk up to 10 percent when someone experienced repeated episodes of depression.
In other animals, shrinkage in the hippocampus also changes other behaviors as well. Symptoms of a shrunken hippocampus include trouble concentrating and memory problems.
This begs the question, though, which comes first? The shrunken hippocampus or the depression?
Neuroplasticity – How Your Brain Can Reverse the Damage
Regardless of how depression starts, you’re not stuck with the brain you have; you can change your brain, and your hippocampus. Studies at the Centre for Psychiatric Research in Stockholm have followed depressed people for 10 years in one study, and results show that negative effects on the hippocampus from chronic depression can be reversed.
The right, individualized treatment can reverse those effects, especially given that the hippocampus is one of the most regenerative areas.
This ability, to repair and create new nerves – neurogenesis and neuroplasticity – proves that you can change your brain and reverse the shrunken hippocampus and keep the reoccurring depressive episodes from happening. In animal trials, neurogenesis is paramount to making depressed brains healthy again, and through various trials, antidepressant treatments seem to effectively start or encourage the process.
One thing that researchers are trying to figure out next: Can antidepressants help chronic depression because of the way serotonin in the brain is affected, or because of the way it encourages new nerve cells to form? Or both?
The sooner that depression is treated, the less damage done is to the hippocampus. Though antidepressants have showed to help, researcher Ian Hickey and Amen Clinic founder, Dr. Daniel Amen, encourage the regenerative process in brain cells. The Amen Clinics Method encourages using the least toxic methods to treat conditions like depression, and to increase neuroplasticity.
If you or a loved one have experienced recurring episodes of depression, don’t wait. Amen Clinics patients have a better quality of life after just six months, 85 percent of the time. Don’t you deserve to live happy and healthy? Call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.