How chronic stress influences the brain and causes depression
Chronic stress affects the immune system, potentially leading to a host of health issues, including heart disease, insomnia, and even depression. In fact, many stress-related mental illnesses are linked to changes in the immune system. But it remains unknown how the immune system could cause such behavioral changes like depression. How do changes in the immune system affect the brain?
How chronic stress may lead to depression
Researchers from the University of Zurich have discovered that chronic stress causes a particular enzyme in the immune system to enter the brain, affecting neurons and causing the individual to withdraw and display social avoidance, signs of depression. This enzyme is known as matrix metalloproteinase-8 (MMP-8).
When MMP-8 travels through the blood under stress to the brain, it alters the functioning of some specific neurons.
"We were able to show that stress increases the amount of the matrix metalloproteinase-8," says study author Flurin Cathomas, "an enzyme in the blood of mice. The same changes were found in [human] patients with depression."
These changes lead to social withdrawal and avoidance, which is a symptom of depression.
This is a new discovery as regards how chronic stress and the immune systems affect the brain and lead to depression. If the substance responsible (the enzyme in this case) has been identified, then this can present opportunities for developing more targeted treatments for depression.
More on the research here.
Depression can be quite complex. For most patients, they do not exactly know why they feel the way they do. They just know nothing makes sense anymore. If that's your situation, or you know a loved one battling depression, we want to help. We have a range of treatment options, and we will recommend what's best for your unique situation.
Get in touch with us at Hope Mental Health today.