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Depression: Vulnerability To Mental Health Issue Linked To Noradrenaline

First Posted: Feb 15, 2016 11:56 PM EST

Researchers at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University have found that vulnerability to depression may be linked to noradrenaline (NA), an organic chemical in the catecholamine family that functions in the human brain and body as a hormone and neurotransmitter, according to a recent study. The new findings are published in the journal Nature.

Research shows that resilience to certain problems in life can ultimately determine if certain problems will trigger major depression in some individuals. However, researchers are still learning just how people bounce back--or not--from certain setbacks.  

"We know that a small cerebral structure, known as the ventral tegmental area, contains dopaminergic neurons that play a key role in vulnerability to depression," said study author Bruno Giros, whose team is part of the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal research network, in a news release.

By using animal models, researchers were able to confirm that increasing dopaminergic neuron activity corresponded with depression. Furthermore, extra research revealed a second type of neuron--noradrenergic neurons--control dopaminergic neuron activity.

"It is this control that steers the body's response toward resilience or toward vulnerability to depression," added Giros. (These neurons can be found in the cerebral structure, known as the Locus coreuleus and communicate by using noradrenaline--a neurotransmitter molecule that's important in emotional regulation, sleep and mood disorder and, perhaps, depression and resilience, according to Giros.) 

The study showed that animals that are not capable of releasing noradrenaline are more vulnerable to depression following an event resulting in chronic stress. However, Giro notes that this is not an irreversible condition. 

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