Hacia la curación del cerebro deprimido

Los científicos y profesionales de la salud mental han dado grandes pasos en la comprensión y el tratamiento de la depresión severa, lo que incluye el descubrimiento del papel que juegan los desequilibrios en el cerebro de sustancias químicas como la serotonina y la noradrenalina. Pero cada vez hay más evidencia de que hay más en juego: la depresión también implica cambios estructurales en áreas del cerebro que participan en los estados de ánimo, la memoria y la toma de decisiones.

A menudo la depresión ocurre como consecuencia de experiencias estresantes. El cerebro interpreta nuestras experiencias y decide si son amenazadoras, y luego controla nuestras respuestas conductuales y sicológicas a ellas. Los datos obtenidos de experimentos con animales muestran que se producen cambios fisiológicos dañinos como resultado de la incapacidad del cerebro y el cuerpo de responder a un estrés repetido con modificaciones adaptativas de estructuras y funciones. Tres áreas del cerebro (el hipocampo, el córtex prefrontal y la amígdala) son particularmente susceptibles a cambios patológicos en términos de tamaño y función.

Estas áreas son instrumentales para la interpretación de lo que es estresante y la determinación de las respuestas correspondientes. En este proceso participan muchos mediadores químicos, como el cortisol y la adrenalina de las glándulas adrenales, otras hormonas y neurotransmisores (como la serotonina y la noradrenalina) y respuestas de los sistemas autónomo e inmune. Por tanto, la depresión produce cambios en el resto del cuerpo, debido a desequilibrios químicos de largo plazo en los sistemas que controlan el corazón, el sistema inmune y el metabolismo.

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