Depression isn’t just sadness. It doesn’t last a day or two, or even a month.
Chronic depression can remain for years.
Science is beginning to discover the physiology behind this illness–as real as any cancer or virus–and uncovering its implications.
At one point, research pointed to a particular chemical in the brain that is partially responsible for mood and emotion–serotonin.
It was from this body of research that anti-depressant medications were formulated–to stimulate serotonin production. We are finding now that it’s much more complicated than that.
Depression Affects Memory
If you’ve ever suffered from depression, as 350 million people world-wide have, you know that it’s a heavy weight that sits on your chest and fogs your brain, leading to difficulties with even simple tasks like deciding what to eat for lunch.
People who have never known what that feels like try to be helpful, saying things like, “this, too, shall pass” or “get over it” or “don’t worry, be happy”. If only it were that easy.
The hippocampus is the part of the brain that regulates memory and emotion. The size of this structure has been found to decrease in chronically depressed people. Brain cell communication is affected, serotonin production is reduced, and the rest of the body suffers.
Serotonin stimulates growth of new neurons in the brain; the loss of it affects learning, memory, sleep, and mood.
The good news is that, with psychological treatment, the hippocampus can be restored to its normal size and subsequent brain activity can resume.