The brain is an amazing organ. It requires more energy than any other organ in our body. It is responsible for our ability to live and thrive and function and grow…and yet there is still so much mystery surrounding it. Researchers have been trying to understand the impact of mental health disorders on the brain for decades, and just when we think we have a solid understanding…something new is discovered that tips everything we thought we knew on its head.
The discovery of ketamine for depression in the later part of the 1990’s kickstarted a whole new era of brain research. It shed light on a part of the brain that had been misunderstood or overlooked, and has unlocked a new world of hope for those suffering from debilitating mental health disorders. Researchers, with this new understanding in mind, have begun to look at the brain from a whole new perspective.
One such perspective, per the results of a recent study performed by the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, is the role of mitochondria in the development of depression.
Each of our neurons is rich with mitochondria—these little “powerhouses” that metabolize the food we eat into the energy our cells need to function. In the study, certain mitochondrial deletions resulted in marked symptoms of depression in mice. Similar results were obtained when the study was conducted on human brain cells, taken from cadavers.
What a wild thing to think that a specific mitochondrial deletion could be responsible for the onset of depression! However, this research is far from being applied meaningfully in a clinical setting. Researchers are unclear about where, specifically, in the brain these mitochondria deletions are prevalent, and the cause of the deletions themselves is unknown—it could as easily be genetic as triggered by trauma. Furthermore, taking a sample of a patient’s brain tissue to test for mitochondrial deletions is not feasible—it would require new brain imaging technology, which is largely hypothetical at this point in time.
But…in the future…patients could be individually treated for depression based on their unique mitochondrial makeup. Science is amazing, and mental healthcare gets more exciting every day.
Until that time in the future comes, patients will need to rely on the tried and true depression treatment options currently available in the marketplace: psychotherapy, antidepressant drugs, and ketamine treatments. Check back with our blog frequently to stay on top of the latest developments in depression research and treatment! Or, if you or a loved one is struggling, ask us about a free consultation. We are happy to answer your questions, address our concerns, and point you in the direction of health and wellbeing.