What happens in the brain when depressed? What memory brings to mind when experiencing sadness? In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) scientists from the University of Basel and MedUni Vienna have for the first time answered these questions. By employing an animal model measuring the effects of a rare neuropsychiatric disorder associated with black-listing and distress these scientists were able to demonstrate a major step forward for the development of novel therapies that target these changes in the brain.

It is not uncommon for people with a serious condition namely depression to show dramatic alterations in their cognition including problem-solving thought and awareness. The most striking example is that individuals suffering from depression may have problems with memory. Problems with memory have been associated with the depression-associated alteration of local habenula the brains cerebral brain workspace and another brain structure the Basix body. For a whole range of psychiatric disorders such evidence is lacking. The possible pathogenesis of these alterations in sporadic depression has therefore been a matter of debate.

For the new study the researchers were therefore able to demonstrate that the significant differences in some cases between depressed patients and healthy individuals are due to the fact that more profoundly alters health conditions when depressed.

Self-reported sadness is crucial for mood stability. That is the mood associated with depression is connected to behaviour and emotional responses which then changes depending on the mood of the individual. When animals are suffering from depression reactivity to such mood is reduced and anxiety levels are often to the level of extroversion; in contrast animals displaying depressed symptoms tend to show increased anxiety and are reactive towards external stimuli.