Genetic Switch Involved in Depression

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

National Institutes of Health

September 10, 2012

The activity of a single gene sets in motion some of the brain changes seen in depression, according to a new study. The finding suggests a promising target for potential therapies.

Raising expression of the Gata1 gene decreases the number of neuron connections (right) compared to controls (left). Image courtesy of Duman laboratory.

People with major depressive disorder, or major depression, have feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration that interfere with daily life for weeks or longer. The symptoms of depression also include memory loss and trouble thinking.

Past studies have found that people with major depression have brains that are physically different from those of non-depressed people. The depressed brain has a smaller prefrontal cortex, a region at the front of the brain that handles emotion and complicated thought. The area also has fewer and smaller neurons (nerve cells) in the depressed brain.

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