What Happens To The Brain During Depression - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-03-29
What Happens To The Brain During Depression - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Depression
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 860 words
8 min read

Depression can be broadly explained as a neurological disorder that mainly occurs as a result of the failure of our brain to control moody, sad, gloomy feelings that are a part of our everyday life. These factors fairly interact and lead to the feeling of sadness as well as hopelessness for an unidentified period of time, say a week, a month, or even a year (Brewin, 2015).

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Chemicals play a significant role in depression, and the imbalance of our body hormones leads to the onset of depression. This can occur to a person maybe once in their lifetime, whereas to others, there may be repeated incidences of depression throughout their lives. This intense and long-lasting form of depression is called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). When symptoms such as continued feelings of sadness and hopelessness, significant reduction or complete lack of interest in previously loved activities. Also, tremendous weight loss and to others surprisingly extreme gain in weight, the tendency to oversleeping or lack of sleep, the feeling of fatigue and restlessness, feeling like you are not worthy, and the most common, which is suicidal thoughts.

Depression is not age-specific, and this MDD may befall any person and at any age. A lot of researchers have devoted their time trying to dig deep into the causes of depression, but they have achieved less of the desired success. Treating depression may be either counseling by a professional psychologist, prescribed medicines that are antidepressants, and in severe cases, the two therapy methods may be applied as a combination, with an aim to reduce the effects of depression.

Employment of technological procedures to scan the brain has proved vital in identifying the major areas of the brain that are affected by depression. Regions that control an individual's moods, as well as memory storage function, are the most affected. These regions include the thalamus, also known as the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is mainly found in the central part of the brain. It is the processor and recollection of long-term memories as well as producing hormone cortisol. This hormone is released by the body during intense mental stress as well as physical fatigue. For a grown-up person, the brain is set to keep producing brain cells, otherwise known as neurons. Still, for a person suffering from depression, the brain produces too much hormone cortisol, which in turn hinders the production of neurons due to too much exposure to high levels of the hormone cortisol. The result of this is the shrinking of the hippocampus, and the individual starts to experience memory losses.

The other part that is hugely impacted is the thalamus or the prefrontal cortex. Its location is in the front part of the brain. The primary function undertaken by the thalamus is to regulate a person's emotions, decision making, as well as the formation of new memories (Swaab et al. 2005). The thalamus is significantly affected by the excess production of the hormone cortisol. The result is shrinking. When it interacts with the cerebral cortex, then speech functions behavioral movements, learning as well as thinking are the results of such interaction. When the thalamus shrinks, these processes are greatly affected. Thus individuals suffering from depression are observed to behave abnormally, long spells of silence, or even reduced body activities.

The amygdala is a part of the brain affected by depression and is located just below the hippocampus. It is a component of the limbic system that is concerned with feelings of pleasure, fear, sorrow, and anger. It is mainly activated when a person remembers memories that charge their emotions and feelings. This part of the brain enlarges and becomes very active when the levels of the hormone cortisol increase. This, in turn, leads to reduced amounts of sleep. It is also responsible for the imbalanced production of other essential hormones by the brain and thus the change in chemical composition in the brain (Van Praag et al. 2004). It can be generally said that the amygdala's activities increase when a person is experiencing depression. This goes on even after a person is under therapy or even after recovering from depression.

Shrinking of the hippocampus as well as the prefrontal cortex and the hyperactivity of the amygdala, are as a result of the production of the excess hormone cortisol. This chemical imbalance in the brain is corrected by administering specific chemicals that act to reverse the shrinkage of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex as well as reduce the activities of the amygdala. These antidepressants help in fighting the adverse effects of depression. An individual suffering from depression is also advised to maintain healthy eating, have enough sleep to ensure that the brain gets sufficient rest and avoiding substances such as alcohol and drugs in general to prevent the destruction of brain cells.


Brewin, C. R. (2015). Depression and causal attributions: What is their relation?. Psychological Bulletin, 98(2), 297.

Swaab, D. F., Bao, A. M., & Lucassen, P. J. (2005). The stress system in the human brain in depression and neurodegeneration. Aging research reviews, 4(2), 141-194.

Van Praag, H. M., de Kloet, E. R., & Van Os, J. (2004). Stress, the brain, and depression. Cambridge University Press.

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