The term “depression” gets thrown around a lot, with many people substituting sad or melancholy feelings for the official clinical diagnosis. And while the condition itself is actually pretty complex, new research says that the origin of depression might be simpler than we thought; at least, in some ways.
New research out of the University of California, Berkeley, has identified unique biomarkers—specific genes as well as brain circuits—in mice associate with a commonly known symptom of depression: a lack of motivation.
But while it is easy to attribute a lack of motivation to those who have already been diagnosed with depression, this new research suggests that identifying these biomarkers in a person might make it easier to determine a person’s risk for developing depression. This suggests, then, it might be possible to prescribe medication and other treatment before depression starts to take its toll.
Study author Stephan Lammel explains, “If we had a biomarker for specific symptoms of depression, we simply could do a blood test or image the brain and then identify the appropriate medication for that patient. That would be the ideal case, but we are far away from that situation right now.”
The UC Berkeley assistant professor of molecular and cell biology goes on to say, “We think that our study not only has the potential to transform how basic scientists study depression in animals, but the combination of anatomical, physiological, and molecular biomarkers described could lay the foundation for guiding the development of the next generation of antidepressants that are tailored to specific depression symptoms.”
It may surprise you to learn that depression is the most prevalent mental health disorder in the entire world. As far as we know, it affects nearly 10 percent of the American population, annually, and is among the leading causes of disability in the workplace. Symptoms for the condition can range from mild to severe and present differently depending on the person, so it is not always easy to find an effective treatment, at least not right away.