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Posts Tagged ‘Mental Illness’

Depression Is Still a Mystery — We Need a New Model

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 3, 2013

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Murali Doraiswamy, M.D., and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

Depression-solution-blockThe magazine ScienceNews begins a recent article on depression with a blanket judgment: “A massive effort to uncover genes involved in depression has largely failed.” A general reader would probably not feel the shock waves that spread from thisassessment. Gene research is always going up and down. That doesn’t change the public’s general sense that depression is being handled pretty well. Billion-dollar antidepressants continue to flourish. Somewhere in the future, better ones will improve the situation even more.

Informed opinion on the subject is very different, however, because the model for depression that has been accepted for decades counts it as a brain disorder, and brain disorders are rooted in genetics. The failure to find the genes involved in depression strongly suggest — as more than one prominent researcher now concedes — that the genes of depressed people are not damaged or distorted compared with the genes of people who aren’t depressed. What follows from that is another false assumption. The most popular antidepressants supposedly worked by repairing chemical imbalances in the synapses — the gaps between two nerve endings — where the culprit seemed to be an imbalance of serotonin. But serotonin is directly regulated by genes, and some key research indicates that drugs aimed at fixing the serotonin problem either don’t work that way or that there wasn’t a serotonin problem in the first place.

The ScienceNews report doesn’t leave much wiggle room for a laissez-faire attitude on this point: “By combing through the DNA of 34,549 volunteers, an international team of 86 scientists hoped to uncover genetic influences that affect a person’s vulnerability to depression. But the analysis turned up nothing.” Nothing doesn’t mean something.

If the chain of explanation running from genes to the synapses and finally to the pharmaceutical lab is broken, a host of doubts arises. Is depression a brain disease in the first place, or is it — as psychiatry assumed before the arrival of modern drug treatment — a disorder of the mind? The latest theories haven’t gone back to square one. What we know isn’t black and white. There are many variables in depression, which leads to some fairly good conclusions: Read the rest of this entry »

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