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WHAT THE TOP EXPERTS SAY…..by MichaelBlue

Dec.  30, 2007  –  It’s one thing to read about the current research being done on depression. But it’s another experience altogether to actually hear the voices of the reigning experts. I want to recommend a one-hour audio program that was well worth the money I spent. (I have no financial or other link to the product!) I just want to say that I found this so refreshing and enriching to listen to.

 

Essentially, a half dozen of the most-acclaimed depression experts in the U.S. – from Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky to Yale’s Ronald Duman to Harvard’s Peter Kramer — got together last year to talk about the latest studies involving the brain. Also, journalist Virginia Heffernan provided an extremely stirring description of what it was like for her to experience depression – an account that I think all of us can definitely relate to — and how her getting better from an anti-depressant made her convinced that her depression was biologically-based. Among other things, she describes how simple things like taking a shower or buying a ticket at a movie theatre are transformed into desperate all-encompassing acts.

WHAT THE TOP EXPERTS SAY..
Depression is a disease

It’s one thing to read about the current research being done on depression. But it’s another experience altogether to actually hear the voices of the reigning experts. I want to recommend a one-hour audio program that was well worth the money I spent. (I have no financial or other link to the product!) I just want to say that I found this so refreshing and enriching to listen to.
Essentially, a half dozen of the most-acclaimed depression experts in the U.S. – from Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky to Yale’s Ronald Duman to Harvard’s Peter Kramer — got together last year to talk about the latest studies involving the brain. Also, journalist Virginia Heffernan provided an extremely stirring description of what it was like for her to experience depression – an account that I think all of us can definitely relate to — and how her getting better from an anti-depressant made her convinced that her depression was biologically-based. Among other things, she describes how simple things like taking a shower or buying a ticket at a movie theatre are transformed into desperate all-encompassing acts.

 

If you google all four of these people’s names at once, you can easily find the audio report I’m talking about.
Their discussion covers everything from the effects of stress on hormones, to the effects of antidepressants on neurogenesis, from exercise to psychotherapy to ECT, to memory problems in depressed people, to how the hippocampi of depressed people are clearly smaller (by 10-20%) than in non-depressed people.

The overriding message one comes away with: That it’s critically important that depressed people receive treatment as soon as possible, in order to offset and reverse anatomical changes that are happening in their brains!

It was especially encouraging to hear Sapolsky, one of the world’s top experts on the neurology of stress and depression, respond to the question of whether depression is an illness. Here are excerpts of his answer:

“Absolutely… One of the big problems with depression…is this kind of temptation after awhile to say, ‘Enough already. Pull yourself together. All of us have hard times. We all come out the other end. Stop babying yourself.’ And what I have always sort of been on a soapbox about is…depression is as real of a biological disorder as is diabetes. And you don’t sit down a diabetic and say, ‘Oh, come on, what’s with this insulin stuff. Stop babying yourself.’…Show somebody an image of somebody’s brain – and say, ‘Lookie here, this part of the brain is smaller than it would be normally’ — and that screams ‘biology’ to you. It’s not somebody simply indulging. That’s not ‘pull yourself together…’ It’s a biological disorder that’s obviously exquisitely sensitive to environment…That’s the ONLY way you can understand it.”

Harvard’s Kramer says the age-old question of whether depression is a disease was settled back in Spring of 1999 with two key studies of the brain. One study used computer modeling based on a microscopic examination of thin slices of brain tissue taken from depressed and non-depressed people who had suddenly died. Researchers found a “disruption of cell architecture” in the depressed people’s brains. In particular, there was a marked absence of cells called “glia” that support and protect neurons — leaving those neurons in depressed people vulnerable to stress.

The second decisive study — conducted by Washington University’s Yvette Sheline, who also discusses it on this recording — found that the hippocampus of depressed women were smaller — even when they are not actively depressed — and that its smaller size even corresponded with the number of days the women had been depressed in their lifetimes!

Cutting-edge stuff, from these cutting-edge researchers.

Happy New Year all.

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