How does depression affect brain?

Around 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide according to WHO. Taking into account those statistics as well as many risk factors that we are all exposed to everyday, it’s worth considering how depression can affect someone’s physical health and whether the changes are permanent. That’s why, in this article, we will look at how brains of patients with depression might differ from healthy brains and how the physical changes reflect in the behavior.

Years of research on patients with depression have led to some conclusions about what happens in the brain of those patients. First of all, it seems that depression lowers the gray matter volume, which is the brain tissue with many cell bodies, dendrites and axon terminals of neurons. The loss of GMV is especially prominent in the hippocampus which plays a crucial role in memory making and prefrontal cortex which is responsible for higher order thinking, such as planning and decision making. Those changes could explain the cognitive difficulties experienced by many patients with depression.

What researchers also found in different studies, is increased inflammation of the brain tissue due to depression. However, the cause-and-effect relationship between depression and inflammation is not yet clear, meaning we don’t know if inflammation causes depression or depression causes inflammation. Nevertheless, some of the effects of the increased inflammation include difficulties in making new synapses, death of brain cells and faster aging of the brain.

The evidence for the aforementioned changes is quite strong; however, are they permanent? Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this question. It seems that long-term depression can leave permanent damage to some areas of the brain which can explain why it is such a difficult disorder to treat. Hopefully, future research will contribute to making progress in this field.

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Works Cited
Amiel, Dr. Michael. “What Happens to the Brain during Depression – Transformations Center.”,
Wiginton, Keri. “Physical Effects of Depression on the Brain.” WebMD, 28 July 2020,
World Health Organization. “Depression.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 13 Sept. 2021,

Lena Nowaczek

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