Last week an article published in New Scientist threw a different light onto the subject of depression. Research carried out by the University of medicine in Germany, suggests that depression could be a reaction to an infection, causing the brain to become inflamed.
Although this study was very small research scientists are excited by the results. It is thought that stress may cause an inflammation which spreads to the brain. Although the brain has its own immune system, the blood-brain barrier, it is thought that some infection can go past this and cause cells in the brain’s very own immune system called microglia to kill off neurons.
What is also interesting is that the researchers speculated that Alzheimer’s disease can be a result of microglia killing off brain cells, due to ongoing infection. Research carried out in the UK at Southampton University suggest that an anti-inflammatory drug called Etanercept, which is normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, can help reduce some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as poor memory.
One comment made in the article is that categorising depression as a medical problem, rather than a psychological problem, in of itself can cause a stigma for people suffering with depression.
What was not clear from the article is whether depression causes the inflammation or the information causes depression. The article does state that poor diet, obesity, smoking and inactivity can cause an increase in the risk of inflammation. Ironically, a overeating, under exercising, and a bad diet are often some of the things that a depressed person would use to self soothe themselves.
The articled stated that more research needs to be carried out, to make a definite link between depression and inflammation, whether this will result in a new form of treatment for depression, one would have to wait and see.