A study conducted by the ENIGMA MDD Working group has broken many notions of how depression affects the brain. It has been believed for a number of years that brain damage caused or worsened chances of chronic depression. This study provided impressive data that shows that persistent depression causes physiological damage to the brain. This gives everyone more reason to try to be positive and happy.
Published in Molecular Psychology, the study surveyed an unprecedented 9,000 individual samples. The relationship between depression and damage is specifically revealed in the health of the hippocampus. Past studies revealed a distinct relationship is the size of the hippocampus and depression, but the testing groups were never large enough to yield definite results.
No testing sample has been this large, so the results proved the theory of depression’s true cause and effect. It governs the creation of new memories, the formation of long term memories and spatial navigation. It is located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain aka the center of the lower middle part of the brain. The hippocampus is present on both halves of the brain. It houses the amygdala, which has been previously linked to depression.
It is important to understand that the hippocampus not only forms and maintains memories, but is crucial in controlling emotions.
ENIGMA took magnetic resonance images (MRI) that compared the images of 1,728 patients diagnosed with chronic depression to the images of 7,199 healthy individuals.
The patients diagnosed with chronic depression showed a definite shrinkage of hippocampal volume, up to 1.24 percent. Professor Ian Hickie, the co-author of the study explains the relationship of the hippocampus and emotions,
“Your whole sense of self depends on continuously understanding who you are in the world – your state of memory is not about just knowing how to do Sudoku or remembering your password – it’s the whole concept we hold of ourselves… We’ve seen in a lot of other animal experiments that when you shrink the hippocampus, you don’t just change memory, you change all sorts of other behaviors associated with that – so shrinkage is associated with a loss of function.”
As the hippocampus shrinks, your memories can become more negative, making your expectations for the future just as bleak. It becomes a cycle of self-fulfillment. Not reigning in your perspective, limits the effectiveness and functionality of your brain. More research has to be done to examine the reversibility of this particular kind of damage.
There has been concrete experimentation revealing how meditation and yoga can thicken brain tissue and develop new neural connections. While positive thinking and mindful living has been acknowledged as vital for mental and spiritual health, now it has been proven to be necessary for your physical self as well.
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