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Scientists have finally discovered how one of psychiatry's most controversial treatments can help patients with severe depression.
Researchers at Aberdeen University have discovered that ECT - or electro-convulsive therapy - affects the way different parts of the brain involved in depression 'communicate' with each other.
ECT is a treatment for a small number of severe mental illnesses. It was originally developed in the 1930s and was used widely during the 1950s and 1960s for a variety of conditions. It is now clear that ECT should only be used in a smaller number of more serious conditions.
Crudely speaking, the psychological field of gender development is split between those who see gender differences as learned via socially constructed ideas about gender, and those who believe many gender differences are actually “sex differences”, innate and biologically driven.
A team led by Dr David Glahn (Glahn et al., 2012) claims to have identified a gene RNF123 which may play a role in major depression (as distinct from bipolar disorder/depression). This gene has been shown to affect the hippocampus, which in turn is implicated in depression. Smaller hippocampal volumes are often found in people with recurrent bouts of major depression. Smaller hippocampal volumes also appear to be associated with a lower probability of remission of depression with antidepressants.However, the causal nature of this relationship is not entirely clear. Hippocampal volume may be either a cause of depression or a consequence of it. For example, it might be the case that people born with a smaller hippocampus (because of the RNF123 gene) may be more vulnerable to depression (the diathesis-stress model). Alternatively, it could also be the case that the duration of untreated depression might in some way affect hippocampal volumes. The picture above is apparently what RNF123 looks like!