Stimulating amygdala in brain may treat depression, suggests study

Stimulating amygdala in brain may treat depression, suggests study

Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, more than 16 million people aged 18 years or older in the country, representing 6.7 percent of the adult population, had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. A serious mental disorder, depression makes one feel low, sad and lose interest in activities he/she once enjoyed.

While factors such as genetics and environment can trigger its development, the condition can be treated using medications, therapies or a combination of both. Now, a new research published recently in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests a different method to treat depression. According to the study, stimulating amygdala, a human brain’s part known to be involved in causing depression, can act as an effective treatment for the disorder. This can be done by self-observing the amygdala’s activity and then, intentionally try to increase the same by recalling positive memories, also known as fMRI neurofeedback.

Significant decline in depression levels

The study, led by Kymberly Young from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was conducted on 36 adult volunteers diagnosed with depression. The participants were divided into two groups — one group included those who did fMRI neurofeedback on their amygdalas and the other included the control group that conducted a fake neurofeedback exercise on that part of the brain that was not involved in emotional processing.

The researchers conducted the brain scan of both the groups by an fMRI. This was done to identify the location of either amygdala or the control region of their brains. After this, the participants were made to view a signal from the part of the brain that was being measured. They were also asked to regulate the strength by conjuring up happy memories. After conducting two such sessions, it was found that 12 out of 19 participants in the first group showed a significant decrease in their depression levels, as compared with just two in the control group.

Young strongly believes that this treatment can work effectively, as the role of the amygdala is well-known in depression. Moreover, amygdala of a depressed individual is more responsive to the native emotional cues it is exposed to, such as the photograph of a frightening situation and less responsive to positive emotional cues, such as a happy childhood memory. Therefore, the aim is to check whether an increase in amygdala’s responsiveness can lead to positive recollections and thus, reduce depression in individuals.

Seeking treatment for depression

Depression can be treated with timely medical intervention. If a person is grappling with any depressive symptoms, he/she should immediately seek professional help from a reputed mental health care provider. It is important to understand that there is no single method to treat depression. The most suitable treatment depends on the stage of depression he/she has attained, its causes and others. One should also remember that depression is not an ordinary illness that can be cured at home. Therefore, it is always important to seek consultation from a mental health expert.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and looking for details about depression treatment centers in California, Sovereign Health, a leading mental health care provider in the U.S., can help. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online with one of our representatives to know more about our facilities offering mental health programs in California and other parts of the country.

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