The Genetics of Depression

The Genetics of Depression

– It can be deeply debilitating
– 1 in 7 Australians experience at some time in their life
– Depression is at the top of the list of chronic diseases affecting people worldwide (& also the as test growing type of chronic disability in the world)
– It is also the condition most likely to take you out of work, out of school & to non-participation in your family
– it is linked to suicide, AOD (Alcohol and other Drugs) problems, relationship breakdowns
– biopsychosocial causes – personality, circumstances, genetics (I.e. where it known to often run in families)
– depression is thought to be 1/3 caused by genetics & the rest – environment: stressful life events (moving house, relationship problems, difficulties at work)
– twin studies further confirm that depression runs in families, with identical twins more likely to have a similar depression type than non-identical twins
– interview with one girl – She believed the cause of her depression to be loneliness & lack of support – depression ran in the family; she developed a toolkit approach – 30 minutes exercise per day; 10 minutes meditation; she had a list of people she could call when feeling sad – she said this list was vital because when depressed she often forgot there was anyone in the world who cared
– she notes that she believed at the time she had changed,more personality had changed & that she would never get better
– she believes depression is still a taboo topic [she notes her mum’s advice: treat it like a broken leg; if everyone had a broken leg then they would all have an identity crisis, but a broken leg is not an identity crisis – it is a broken leg – everyone in society accepts a broken leg – but society uses the brain as an identifier of you the person – therefore, this just makes it that bit more difficult to overcome]
– she participated in the Australian Genetics of Depression Study – part of one of the world’s largest studies [a 5 year study into all the various types & presentations of depression]
– another woman: 45 & diagnosed with blood cancer – developed depression & anxiety which manifested themselves with the following symptoms
– confusion, emotional, loss of functionality at home, unable to motivate herself to get out of bed, & fear/anxiety

So, how does depression impact and change the brain?
[This can be now known due to brain imaging/scanning or fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Images) studies]
– Structural changes in the frontal lobes of the brain
– Structural changes in the temporal lobes
– Structural changes in the hippocampi (associated with memory)
[These changes were also related to how long you had depression; Whether you have had a relapse of depression; And whether you had sought treatment – no treatment changes the brain architecture over time – much like any organ in the body left untreated]

Genome-Wide Association Scan Technique (to locate the hundred of genes involved & which interact with the environment)
– has powered a breakthrough in complex disease genetics
– it can find genes associated with schizophrenia (170 genes are associated with it)
– the search is now on for depression-related genes – the company in Brisbane (?) is looking for volunteers to provide a saliva sample (based on people having received a depression of diagnosis)

– depression is a big umbrella term
– the study can help identify whether depression is circadian in basis (body clock)
– SSRI – very good for anxiety-type forms of depression

Later in the day people (rather than morning person) are more associated with depression
Body clocks are chaotic – associated with Bipolar Depression
– changes in seasons often disrupt personal body clocks

Source: ABC RN | All in the Mind | Podcast date: 25 June 2017


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