Brain Rewires Itself to Prevent Depression?

A preliminary study of 10- to 14-year-old girls whose mothers are, or have been depressed, has uncovered a fascinating potential for their brains. Because related research has shown girls born from depressed mothers or mothers who have experienced depression have a higher risk of the illness, they were the focus of Stanford researchers. What they found though could be of use to everyone.

Depressed people have stronger responses to negative experiences, such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol production. By observing the girls brain activity when they were shown distressing images like those depicting accidents, and representing their stress response with a graph, the researchers could then ask the girls to the try to lower the graph by thinking of positive scenarios like playing with pets. The real-time brain scanning showed the girls activity associated with stress decreased when they began to imagine happy scenarios. The girls could see their own graphs, and how they decreased in stress levels when they imagined the positive scenarios. When they learned they were able to decrease the level with their thoughts, they were happy and sort of amazed.

Another study task involved having them look at two faces on a computer screen, one negative and one positive, and move a dot towards the positive face by clicking a cursor on it.  Then another pair of similar images appears with a dot and the same situation is repeated over and over. This computer game teaches the depression-prone girls to choose an option which is more positive when presented with a negative one.

The point of the Stanford research is not that it is a cure for depression, rather it could help these girls learn to prevent it. A follow-up period after the tests seemed to indicate there is a potential for depression prevention. After putting the girls through some tests to induce stress, they did not react as strongly.

So hopefully the research is on the right track and will yield insights into how people who are genetically-predisposed to depression can learn from an early age some cognitive techniques to prevent depression, or perhaps reduce its severity.

Image Credit: Vincent Van Gogh, Public Domain

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Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton2 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

Thanks for sharing this.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.3 years ago


Susan A.
Susan A.3 years ago

Thanks for this info!

Laura M.
Past Member 3 years ago

Oooooh, cool!

Sam Richardson

I dunno, I suffered from pretty bad depression when I was in my teens, and then got much better and very optimistic ... but that didn't stop me from falling into a deep depression recently, which I have spent nearly six months trying to climb out of.

Andy Kadir-Buxton

Sleep experts say that most mental illness is caused by poor, and little, sleep. To get the sleep you get at the coast when the wind blows in from the sea just heat salt water in an oil burner overnight. This cures insomnia in just five nights, and takes with it those symptoms of mental illness.

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan3 years ago

Anything to help that doesn't involve drugs is great.

Ra Sc
Ra Sc3 years ago

I'm a big fan of biofeedback. It's been used to help people in various cases. It isn't a miracle cure, and it has limits, but it is a powerful and useful tool.

Jane Barton
Jane Barton3 years ago

All this proves is that the girls inherited a similar HORMONE BALANCE from their mothers. If they had inherited their father's hormone balance they would be prone to other things. People who are prone to depression run on high acid, and they have an abundance of "fear" hormone. People susceptible to depression have a hormone system that goes to high acid easily and they are highly sensitive to the outside environment. A good loving environment goes a long way to "prevention" of depression in these people. But once they are depressed, there is no real cure, only improvement by placing the people in a better environment. It sounds kind of trite but in the end love is the answer, as is the case with
most problems.