Stanford Team Finds Hippocampus to Play Important Role in Depression
> 7/6/2007 9:55:46 AM

According to a new study at The Stanford University School of Medicine, depression may be triggered by changes in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus. Using an innovative new imaging technique, known as voltage sensitive dye, researchers observed the effects of antidepressant medication on laboratory rats’ brains in real time. Triggered by electric activity in the brain, the fluorescent dye in the brain tissues become illuminated and then fade away; a process that scientists were able to capture with special cameras.

The university's press release sums up the team's findings:

They found that in rats the differing mechanisms of depression and its treatment in the end appear to funnel through a single brain circuit. Changes in how the electrical signals spread through the circuit appear to be the cause of depression-related behavior, according to their study.

Published in the July 5 issue of Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science, the team studied activity in the hippocampus tissues of rats and discovered that in depressed rats certain electrical signals spread at a slower rate or not at all. Using antidepressants the team was able to correct this lack of activity. In addition, researchers also discovered that the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus tissue significantly reduced the effects of depression, however there was no evidence that fewer neurons increased depression risk.

The Washington Post quoted senior author Dr. Karl Deisseroth, as saying:

"I think this will help us make sense of how there can be so many different causes and treatments of depression. You can use that common pathway as the most efficient, most direct targeted way to find truly specific treatments.”

Studies like this illustrate how science is taking the necessary steps in providing the public a better understanding and acknowledgment of depression. This new information could prove essential in the proper diagnosis and treatment of this serious and many times deblitating mental disorder. The team from Stanford has also laid the groundwork for future researchers, not only through their important discoveries, but also with their powerful new imaging technique.

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