Depression is a mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Besides pushing a person into a gloomy and dejected state of mind, it also causes damage to the brain permanently. It changes the physical shape of the brain, which as a result causes major changes in behavior and cognition. Depression primarily affects three areas of the brain, which control memory and concentration. Almost 20 percent of depression patients never make a full recovery. Brain damage occurs due to persistent depression rather than being a predisposing factor for it. Depression affects the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex of the brain. Here are the effects of depression on the brain.
No, this is not a huge mammal that lives in the wetlands of Africa. A vital organ located bang in the middle of the brain, the hippocampus rapidly generates new connections between cells. It stores memories and regulates the production of a hormone called cortisol.
Using brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data involving almost 9000 people from around the world, an
The relationship between severe depression and the hippocampus is toxic. The duration of past depression impairs memory performance, pointing to a toxic link between depression and cognition. This calls for an urgent addressing of the problem of depression for public health.4
The amygdala is responsible for emotional responses such as pleasure and fear. In people with MDD, due to continuous exposure to high levels of cortisol, the amygdala becomes enlarged and more active.5 An enlarged and hyperactive amygdala, combined with abnormal activity in other parts of the brain results in disturbances in sleep and activity patterns. It also makes the body release irregular amounts of hormones and other chemicals in the body, resulting in further complications.
3. Prefrontal Cortex
The prefrontal cortex is located in the very front of the frontal lobe. It is responsible for a variety of complex behaviors, regulating emotions, making decisions, planning, forming memories and greatly contributes to personality development. Excessive production of cortisol causes the prefrontal cortex to shrink.
The frontal lobes are much bigger than the hippocampus. The study that observed the shrinkage in both areas concluded that the frontal lobe undergoes the same changes as the hippocampus. The frontal lobes are also directly involved in managing emotional reactions and focusing
Can Cortisol Be The Culprit?
Researchers acknowledge the fact that high cortisol levels play a crucial role in modifying the physical structure and chemical activities of the brain, triggering the onset of MDD. Under normal circumstances, cortisol levels peak during the day and decrease at night. In people with MDD, cortisol levels are always at an increased level, even at night.7
Can Meditation Help?
Meditation is a powerful method to overcome depression and help the brain to recover from the damage caused due to depression. Research has shown that meditation can actually increase the density of the brain.8 9
|↑1||Sapolsky, Robert M. “Depression, antidepressants, and the shrinking hippocampus.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98, no. 22 (2001): 12320-12322.|
|↑2, ↑7||Cirino Erica. The Effects of Depression on the Brain. Healthline. 2016.|
|↑3||Schmaal, Lianne, Dick J. Veltman, Theo GM van Erp, P. G. Sämann, Thomas Frodl, N. Jahanshad, Elizabeth Loehrer et al. “Subcortical brain alterations in major depressive disorder: findings from the ENIGMA Major Depressive Disorder working group.” Molecular psychiatry 21, no. 6 (2016): 806-812.|
|↑4||Gorwood, Philip, Emmanuelle Corruble, Bruno Falissard, and Guy M. Goodwin D Phil, F Med Sci. “Toxic effects of depression on brain function: impairment of delayed recall and the cumulative length of depressive disorder in a large sample of depressed outpatients.” American Journal of Psychiatry 165, no. 6 (2008): 731-739.|
|↑5||Schmaal, Lianne, Dick J. Veltman, Theo GM van Erp, P. G. Sämann, Thomas Frodl, N. Jahanshad, Elizabeth Loehrer
|↑6||What happens inside people’s brains when they’re depressed. Psych Education.org.|
|↑8||Hölzel, Britta K., James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, and Sara W. Lazar. “Mindfulness practice leads to increases
|↑9||Singleton, Omar, Britta K. Hölzel, Mark Vangel, Narayan Brach, James Carmody, and Sara W. Lazar. “Change in brainstem gray matter concentration following a mindfulness-based intervention is correlated with improvement in psychological well-being.” Frontiers in human neuroscience 8 (2014).|