Though the “how” remains uncertain, a study conducted by a team of Yale University scientists suggests depression might expedite the cognitive decline that comes with old age.
Irina Esterlis, one of the neurologist and researchers on the team that presented the theory, believes their recent consideration to be a potential game-changer for medications going forward.
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The messages that brain cells send to each other are called synapses. The stronger the synapse, the better the cognitive function. Using a relatively new method of scanning brains (one that allows for the scanning of synapses in living tissue) Esterlis and her team analyzed the minds of both seniors and young adults.
They saw that people with depression have a lower density of synapses than people who don’t have depression. Among other things, the lower the density of synapses the worst the patient’s ability to retain attention. Esterlis said, “We think depression might be accelerating the normal aging process.”
By the team’s own admission, the pool utilized used for the study is much too small to purport anything resembling conclusive. But the data acquired thus far certainly earned more research.
Because there isn’t currently medication that addresses synapse damage, further examination will be a little tricky, but Esterlis intends to move ahead with more investigation. However, these findings warrant some celebration for the ever-growing community of sufferers of mental illness.
Linking depression and anxiety to Alzheimer’s and dementia isn’t a novel consideration in the science community. But examining the shared cognitive damage they induce in an attempt to treat both has sparked some interest. Several experts, for instance, laud it simply for creating just one more incentive to take diseases of psychosis more seriously.
“If your mood isn’t enough to make you go and get treated, then hopefully your cognition is,” said Dr. Mary Sano, director at the Mount Sinai Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in New York.
The long view seems to be one of the most productive avenues. As Ladders previously reported, the external factors that determine rapid cognitive decline is a world obscured enough, throw in preexisting mental afflictions and it only makes it even more shrouded. Failure on the subject is good, bad science can only be mitigated by less bad science, to paraphrase neurologist Sam Harris.
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