A new study has revealed that long lasting depression can alter the brain and there is a need to change how people think and understand about depression as it progresses.
The study, which has been published in the journal, The Lancet Psychiatry, provides the first biological evidence for big brain changes in long-lasting depression, suggesting that it is a different stage of illness that needs different therapeutics — the same perspective taken for early and later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the researcher said.
The research found that people who suffer from untreated depression for longer periods, lasting more than a decade, had considerably more brain inflammation as compared to those who had less than 10 years of untreated depression.
“Greater inflammation in the brain is a common response with degenerative brain diseases as they progress, such as with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” said co-author of the study, Jeff Meyer from Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada.
For study purposes, researchers involved two groups of people — those with more than 10 years of depression and those with less than 10 years of depression, along with another group of people with no depression as a comparison group.
The brain inflammation was gauged using a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET).
The brain’s immune cells, called microglia, are involved in the brain’s normal inflammatory response to trauma or injury, but too much inflammation is associated with other degenerative illnesses as well as depression.
When the microglia are activated, they make more translocator protein (TSPO), a marker of inflammation that can be seen using PET imaging.
The researchers found that TSPO levels were about 30 per cent higher in different brain regions among those with long-lasting untreated depression, compared to those with shorter periods of untreated depression.
The group with long-term depression also had higher TSPO levels than those with no depression.