New techniques in forensic science may lead to critical understanding of how depression affects the brain. From the article:
People with severe depression have a disrupted “biological clock” that makes it seem as if they are living in a different time zone to the rest of the healthy population living alongside them, a study has found.
It is the first time that depression has been linked unequivocally to the internal circadian clock of the human brain, which regulates the body’s day-and-night cycle over a 24 hour period, scientists said.
The researchers found that they could estimate a healthy person’s time of death to within a few hours by analysing the activity levels of a set of genes – whether they are switched on ‘high’ or ‘low’ – within certain regions of the deceased brain.
However, this correlation broke down when they analysed the autopsied brains of people who had suffered from depression. Their gene activity bore little relationship to the hour of death, which indicated they suffered a severely disrupted sleeping pattern, the scientists found.
It goes on:
“People with depression were not synchronized to the usual solar day in terms of this gene activity. It’s as if they were living in a different time zone than the one they died in,” he said.
Well that’s mind blowing. And a bit frightening. But great they are learning this. It can only lead to positive developments in understanding and treating depression.