The Biology and Pharmacology of Depression
Depression is the outcome of stressful experiences and biological predispositions, including genetics. Many genes evidently contribute to the predisposition. Psychotherapy and various medications are used for treating depression. The medications have rapid effects on serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine synapses, but the benefits occur more slowly, presumably dependent on other mechanisms. A likely hypothesis is that the benefits depend on neurotrophins that promote growth and connections among neurons. Of all the people diagnosed with major depression, nearly one-third would recover on their own within several months. Psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy are about equally helpful to the others, increasing the percentage in recovery to more than one-half. Nevertheless, a substantial number of people with depression do not respond readily to either kind of treatment.
Part of the Interactive Classroom Program category on our BizVision partner site.
- Explain why researchers must consider the episodic nature of depression when they evaluate the effectiveness of any type of therapy.
- Describe several classes of antidepressant medications and state why their time course calls for an explanation that goes beyond the immediate effects at serotonin and dopamine synapses.
- Describe the relative effectiveness of psychotherapy and pharmacology in the treatment of depression.
James Kalat, PhD
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