How The Brain Manages Teen Depression

When you think about the human brain, you would assume that everyone’s brain would have the same basic operating system that tells you how to do simple functions. Breathing, eating, walking, and sleeping are frequent things that we never consider being possible because of our brain. These actions have become such an instinctual thing for us, we never remember how were capable of doing them. Since everyone needs to breathe, sleep, eat, and walk, it would seem obvious that the brain would, for the most part, function the same for everyone. Psych Central has discovered recent research that suggests that individuals suffering from mental illnesses like teen depression, have different brain functions in areas of the brain that should operate in a general way.

The Habenula Region of the Brain

A study by The University College of London found that activity in the habenula region of the brain, functions irregularly in individuals with teen depression. This region of the brain helps us manage expectations of good or bad experiences. The study found that when people suffering from teen depression were going through a bad experience, the habenula reacted in the opposite manner than what occurs in healthy individuals. Due to this, researchers believe that a hyperactive habenula drives symptoms in people suffering from teen depression.

Testing the Theory  

To test this hypothesis, the researchers scanned the brains of 25 people with depression and 25 people without. For the study, the participants were shown a sequences of abstract pictures while they laid inside a scanner. Throughout the process, the participants learned that different images were associated with a chance of different outcomes, good or bad. Some images were paired with an electric shock. When participants predicted images with electric shocks, researchers found increased habenula activation in healthy volunteers, but decreased activation in depressed individuals.

The Habenula Plays a Protective Role

The results were the opposite of what researchers assumed would happen, proving that this region of the brain reacts in a fundamentally different way in individuals suffering from teen depression. Researchers also found that participants who had small habenulae, in both groups, experienced more symptoms that resulted in a loss of interest or pleasure in life. Overall, based on this study and previous studies done, researchers believe that the habenula region of the brain may play a protective role against teen depression. They think that the habenula leads to avoidance that occurs from negative mental and physical events. Ultimately, the habenula may help us to avoid in dwelling on unpleasant thoughts or memories, and when this is disrupted the symptoms related to depression, including excessive negative focus occurs.

blueFire Wilderness can help

blueFire is a wilderness therapy program for struggling teens, ages 11 to 17. Our students often grapple with anxiety, depression, and other emotional or behavioral problems. At blueFire, we strive to help each client succeed.
For more information about blueFire Wilderness, please call 1 (844) 413-1999 today!

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