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Severe depression linked with inflammation in the brain

“Clinical depression is associated with a 30% increase of inflammation in the brain, according to a
new study published in JAMA Psychiatry.”

Inflamation is the immune system's natural response to infection or disease. The body often uses
inflammation to protect itself, such as when an ankle is sprained and becomes inflamed, and the
same principle also applies to the brain. However, too much inflammation is unhelpful and can be
damaging.

Increasingly, evidence is suggesting that inflammation may drive some depressive symptoms, such
as low mood, loss of appetite and reduced ability to sleep.

What the new study set out to investigate was whether inflammation is a driver of
clinical depression independent of other physical illness.

Researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's (CAMH) Campbell Family Mental
Health Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the
brains of 20 patients with depression and 20 healthy control participants.

In particular, the team closely measured the activation of microglia - immune cells that play a key
role in the brain's inflammatory response

The PET scans showed significant inflammation in the brains of the people with depression, and the
inflammation was most severe among the participants with the most severe depression. The brains
of people who were experiencing clinical depression exhibited an inflammatory increase of 30%.

Previous studies have examined markers of inflammation in the blood of depressed people, in an
attempt to solve the "chicken or egg" debate of whether inflammation is a consequence of or
contributor to major depression.

For instance, in 2012, a study conducted by Duke University Medical Center researchers and
published in Biological Psychiatry found an association between the number of cumulative
depressive episodes experienced by study participants and increased levels of an inflammation
marker in their blood called C-reactive protein (CRP).

"Our results support a pathway from childhood depression to increased levels of CRP, even after
accounting for other health-related behaviors that are known to influence inflammation. We found
no support for the pathway from CRP to increased risk for depression," said Duke study leader Dr.
William Copeland.

The Duke team concluded that depression, therefore, is more likely to contribute to inflammation in
the body as opposed to arising as a consequence of inflammation.

Medical News Today did not have access to data on whether the patients in the CAMH study
exhibited brain inflammation prior to developing depression or after symptom onset. However, the
CAMH researchers claim that their study is the first to find definitive evidence of inflammation in the
brains of depressed patients.
Should future depression therapies target inflammation?

"This finding provides the most compelling evidence to date of brain inflammation during a major
depressive episode," says senior author Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, who holds a Canada Research Chair in the
neurochemistry of major depression. He adds:

"This discovery has important implications for developing new treatments for a significant group of
people who suffer from depression. It provides a potential new target to either reverse the brain
inflammation or shift to a more positive repair role, with the idea that it would alleviate symptoms."

Severe depression affects 4% of the general population. However, more than half of people with
major depression do not respond to antidepressants. Dr. Meyer suggests that future studies should
investigate the possible impact of anti-inflammatory drugs on depression symptoms.

"Depression is a complex illness and we know that it takes more than one biological change to tip
someone into an episode," says Dr. Meyer. "But we now believe that inflammation in the brain is
one of these changes and that's an important step forward."

Written by David McNamee

Source : http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288715.php