Researchers have done several studies on depression to try and learn more about the most effective treatments. In recent months, they have successfully used brain scans to pinpoint specific changes in the human brain that cause depression. According to research, the main causes of depression are chemical imbalances in the brain. This imbalance may be caused by a variety of factors including stress, genetics, environmental factors, or even the brain’s inability to deal with certain situations.
In order for these specific changes to be found, the scientists have had to conduct hundreds of scans on patients with different types of depression, to determine if the brain is showing the right symptoms. The scans revealed several abnormalities in the patient’s brain, including what is called a neuropsychological dysfunction. Neuropsychological dysfunction can be broken down into four subtypes including the following.
The first subtype is called Cognitive Dysfunction. This is a condition where the patient lacks the ability to think rationally or when confronted with complex situations. For example, a patient may have trouble forming a cohesive argument in order to defend their argument against someone else.
Another symptom of cognitive dysfunction is a patient who cannot change their mind in response to a stimulus or event. This is caused by a deficit in one or more of the person’s neural connections.
The third subtype is Structural Dysfunction. In this case, the abnormality is seen in areas of the brain that actually control emotion.
A fourth subtype is called Emotional Dysfunction. With this subtype, the brain has trouble controlling emotional responses and feelings. This subtype usually involves depression, but it is also present in patients with anxiety disorders, panic disorders, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, OCD, and OCD-related disorders. In this subtype, the patient suffers from an inability to control their emotions and feelings despite the fact that the situation is stressful.
The results of brain scans of patients with depression were revealed using three different types of technology. Functional MRI (fMRI), Magnetoencephalography (MEG) scans, and Electrophysiology can help reveal how specific neurons in the brain communicate with each other. The mapping of those neurons is then used to determine the exact areas that are affected. by the patient’s illness.
The study that revealed the link between depression and a brain abnormality was called PET scan or positron emission tomography scan. With this procedure, the patient’s brain was scanned with either carbon-11 or fluorine. After an imaging scan, the patient was asked to imagine various situations that trigger their emotions. If they can change the negative thoughts that they are thinking, they are not actually suffering from depression; they are simply imagining the situation to make the thoughts less negative.
Then the imaging scan showed the brain activities during the imaging scan. The brain scans were analyzed using the Brain Imaging Center at Stanford University. When these tests showed an abnormality, there were certain areas of the brain that showed the abnormal changes that the scans showed. One of the areas of the brain that showed abnormality was the frontal cortex, which is one of the two major areas of the brain that controls behavior and emotion.
This part of the brain has been shown to be affected in most cases of depression and is very important in the depression patients’ functioning. If the frontal cortex is affected, then the patient will most likely suffer from depression, a lack of concentration, poor memory, and even some mental retardation. Some of the people with depression had problems with memory as well as did patients with schizophrenia. Other times, the frontal cortex showed abnormalities like when they displayed no activity at all, when the patient had no emotional response at all. Another abnormality in the frontal cortex was when it showed the inability to control activity or respond to external stimuli like sound and touch.
Other times the scans showed activity in the anterior cingulate, which is located on the left side of the brain near the top of the head. With this part of the brain, a patient with depression showed a lack of emotional reaction to different stimuli. The patient with the posterior cingulate showed the opposite: a strong emotional response to certain stimuli such as music. The posterior cingulate is involved in emotional processing.
A fifth type of abnormality is known as Hypothalamic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, which is found in the frontal cortex. The amygdala, which is found in the amygdala is important in the activation of brain chemicals that signal the body’s emotional needs like fear and excitement.