Science: Neurotransmitters in Depression

A recent study has revealed that patients with mild or moderate depression can largely benefit from neurotransmitter precursors. The study, titled “Use of neurotransmitter precursors for treatment of depression,” states that “insufficient activity of the neurotransmitters serotonin and nor-epinephrine is a central element of the model of depression most widely held by neurobiologists today.”

What are neurotransmitters and how do they impact depression in a person?

Depression is often attributed to a chemical imbalance in the brain, at least this is how the common man perceives it. But there is more to it than meets the eye. Actually, it is little more complex than what people usually think. The brain has a number of chemicals which help in communicating with other parts within it. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are sent and received by the multiple nerve cells present in the brain. These nerve cells are called neurons.

The neurons constantly exchange neurotransmitters as a means of communication. This communication is crucial for proper functioning of the brain. Neurons are connected by a tiny space called synapse. Whenever there is a disruption in the smooth functioning of this chain of chemical events, it impacts the brain and the nervous system in a negative way. And onset of depression is one of the outcomes of such a disruption.

When there is an imbalance in the brain with regard to neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, it results in depression. So, the purpose of antidepressant medication is to act upon these particular neurotransmitters and their receptors. They tend to repair this and depression is taken care of.

Serotonin: As a neurotransmitter, serotonin is responsible for regulating many important physiological functions, including sleep, eating, aggression, sexual behavior, and mood. It is produced by serotonergic neurons. Whenever there is a low production of serotonin, it causes depression in a person. In extreme cases, people may also feel suicidal at times when serotonin level depletes.

Dopamine: As a neurotransmitter, dopamine is also linked to depression. It is important in regulating our desire to seek out rewards, as well as our ability to obtain a sense of pleasure. Low dopamine level means a person will not derive pleasure from activities which are usually pleasurable. They become depressed and hence do not feel elated by indulging in otherwise fun-filled activities in life.

Norepinephrine: A low level of norepinephrine is also responsible for depression in people. Studies reveal that a drop in norepinephrine levels is due to low levels of serotonin. It highlights the inter-relation of neurotransmitters influencing the level of happiness and depression in a person.

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