by Barbara Wheeler, NARSAD manager of communications and media relations
The 2003 discovery of a gene variant that seems to predispose people to depression when stressed out created great excitement — and a flood of research — in the field of psychiatry. In 2009, however, an analysis of research on the gene threw cold water on that enthusiasm by finding no consistent link between the gene variant and depression. Now, a new analysis restores the validity of the research findings, opening the door again for further discoveries..
(Note: NARSAD-funded research led by NARSAD Outstanding Achievement Prize Winners Terrie E. Moffitt, Ph.D., and Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D., showing that stress affects the brain differently in people who have different serotonin transporter genotypes was at the heart of proving the gene-depression link. Read more here.)
… When people are truly sinking, because of job loss, illness, debt or some combination of ills, they have no idea what mix of character, connections and dumb luck will be enough to pull through. To use the psychologists’ term, they don’t know how “resilient” they are, or how much resilience even matters. Do I have the right stuff? Or is this sinkhole simply too deep? “As with so many of life’s experiences, humans are simply not very good at predicting how they’ll behave when hit by a real adversity,” said Laura King, a psychologist at the University of Missouri.
Ground-breaking research by a University of Alberta neuroscientist holds the promise of new treatment for anxiety disorders, Canada’s most common mental health problem. The research published last week in The Journal of Neuroscience pinpoints a previously undiscovered mechanism in the brain that controls anxiety. That mechanism affects neurons in the pea-sized part of the brain that assesses risk and reward, making those neurons more or less excitable and therefore more or less likely to send out anxious messages.
Edward (son of Quebec City journalist/photographer Francis Vachon) is a rolling demonstration of what the neuroscientists call “synaptic exuberance.” You can’t see what’s happening in his brain, but he is forming ten, twenty thousand new connections every second. Watch him go.