Link Between Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

You might recognize that anxiety is often accompanied by depression, but did you know there is a biological link between the two?  Using mice, scientists may have determined exactly how stress and anxiety can lead to depression in the brain.  The research, led by Stephen Ferguson at The University of Western Ontario, may allow for new and improved treatments for anxiety, depression, and other related disorders.  This is good news since depression and anxiety are considered the most common cause of chronic illness.

The scientists’ research determined precisely how stress, anxiety, and depression pathways connect through specific processes in the brain. Molecular experiments revealed a link between two brain chemicals: one which leads to anxiety in response to stress, and another which lead to depression. In a behavioral mouse model, it was found that the presence of the anxiety chemicals increases the number of depressive on the surface of brain cells, which can cause abnormal signals.

Furthermore, the scientists developed an inhibitor that will block the pathway responsible for the connection, effectively blocking anxiety – and potentially depression. This could result in a new, more effective pharmaceutical agent that selectively targets depression and has fewer negative effects. The results are published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, and the causes are strongly associated with stressful events. Stressful experiences can also make the symptoms of anxiety and depression more severe. However, molecular biology is the key to understanding why such symptoms arise and how to effectively combat them. By identifying the distinct processes in the brain that link anxiety and depression, researchers have provided new findings that may improve the lives of those coping with these chemical imbalances.

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