Researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK and Fudan University in China have found the physical root of depression. That is, they’ve figured out what part of the brain is responsible for it. Researchers have learned that the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with non-reward, is responsible for depression, a problem that affects about 1 in 10 people at some point in their life.
Basically, when we do something and aren’t rewarded for it, this part of the brain is what makes us feel disappointed. That in itself is normal, but for people with depression, that sense of loss and disappointment is out of proportion with whatever is causing it.
Basically, when things don’t go well, the depressed brain makes it seem worse than it actually is, which results in a sort of feedback loop wherein the person with depression stops attempting things that might turn out poorly. Another aspect of depression is that the connection between this part of the brain and the reward part is reduced, so that even when things do go well, it doesn’t really seem like one is being rewarded.
Depression is a serious problem that plagues modern society. It’s so common that researchers have found traces of anti-depressants in London drinking water. It’s a real mental health problem, and not simply a matter of attitude or something that can easily be fixed with every patient.
Just like the brain, every case of depression is a little different, requiring personalized care and treatment. The more we learn about the biochemical side of depression though, about how the brain functions and how depression affects it, the more we can learn about the disease itself and figure out better ways to treat it. Perhaps some day, we can even figure out a way to prevent it from happening in the first place.