Recent Research Gives New Insight into Adult and Teen Depression
June 1, 2016

Though we know a fair amount about adult and teen depression, there’s still much to learn. In a report by ScienceDaily, the University College London (UCL) conducted a new study researching the region of the brain called the habenula. The habenula is nustled close to the pineal gland and it’s only about the size of a pea. The reason it pertains to adult and teen depression is because it reacts to bad experiences (trauma, abuse, etc.).

Researchers surprised by what they found

The researchers in the study were startled by what they found. The habenula has been long-thought to be more active in those with depression, thus driving symptoms that appear in adult and teen depression. Yet when they attempted to test this long-time theory, they found that the habenula reacted the exact opposite. Instead of being hyperactive in those struggling with depression, it reacted much less.

The size of the habenula did not differ between those who had never experienced depression and those who were depressed. Although, researchers did find a smaller habenula equalled symptoms of anhedonia (loss of pleasure or interest in life); but smaller habenulae were found in those depressed and never-depressed.   

This study gave researchers a clearer understanding of the habenula’s role in not just adult and teen depression, but in healthy brains as well. The habenula may help us with not lingering on negative thoughts or memories–however, when disrupted, it may drive those with depressive symptoms to focus even more on negative experiences.

How this affects teen depression

Teen depression isn’t rare; around 11.4 percent of young people, ages 12 to 17, experience a spell of extreme depression at least once. Though various treatments exist today, they’re not effective for everyone, which makes it important to continue to discover new information to better explain how teen depression forms and works. This study doesn’t solve teen depression, but it does give researchers a new edge on understanding how it is caused and persists.

Original post: Solstice East

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