Depression, Life, Short Posts

It’s All In Your Head

I’m sure most people have heard a fellow human say to another “It’s all in your head” in a moment of distress or worry.

And maybe it was, all in their head. If so, we would be talking about their psychology, or, what they are thinking about in this particular situation; about a particular person or themselves.

In depression, this could also be said, or argued since some sources of depression are indeed all in our head.

Howbeit, what if the depression does not have a source in their mind, yet, still clinically depressed.

In such a case, we could still say it is in our biology. Or, in this case, in our brain. . .

Literally.

More specifically, the physical brain is malfunctioning.

Although biological aspects of depression research is conflicted as to a definite explanation of what is happening to make some people walking zombies that seem to have a healthy self-concept, or, for seemingly no reason, there is still a plethora of insight being revealed.

Briefly, we will consider a few of the major characters or possible antagonist of this dysfunctional glitching and a source that is found in the brain.

Neurons

Our entire body and it’s parts are linked together my trillions of cells.

The cells that create our brain are called neurons.

(Also, other cells are present, like the supporting glial cells; astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and others that support and help nourish neurons.)

If you can imagine a large maple tree in the fall, empty of its green coat, we can picture a neuron. The trunk of the tree is the soma, or the central part of the neuron, and the branches are dendrites, or the extensions of the peripheral(outer) parts or the outer walls of the cell.

Now, imagine if we took a few more of these empty maple trees and linked them together in random alignments, and the main connections between the trunks, would be what they call axons and the branches, the dendrites.

Simply, dendrites are the branches, and they bring in information from other cells to the trunk, or the soma of the cell.

If we add to this illustration around 80 billion of these maple trees and connect them with their branches (dendrites), well, now we’re looking at the central nervous system. (The center of almost all mechanism that make the human experience possible.)

Neurotransmitters

As you can imagine, the cells have to communicate somehow, and one way they do this is these things called neurotransmitters.

A neurotransmitter is a signaling molecule that travels across a junction between neurons to share and send the signal to the next neuron.

There are many neurotransmitters but today we will observe the basic characteristics of the most commonly referenced in biological research in relation to this dark, depleted state.

Serotonin: some say it is a mood equalizer and is active in many parts of the body, it plays a role in learning, happiness, sleep, hunger and memory, anxiety, heart function, and aggression.

Dopamine: commonly known as the “feel good” hormone, it plays a role in pleasure and reward, memory, attention, mood, sleep and movement. Evolutionarily speaking, it is a part of the system that makes us feel good for accomplishing something or finding success in doing what one needs to survive.

Norepinephrine: part of our sympathetic nervous system which is associated with fight-or-flight response; it effects alertness, attention, sleep, mood, memory and arousal.

Now, imagine a bubble floating above your head and one in which you were able to grab without it breaking. Instead of the world bubble we’ll call it a vesicle. Inside our bubble, or vesicle, we will fill it with a group of chemicals or, neurotransmitters.

Revisiting the maple tree complexity we created in our illustration above, we will add these vesicles inside the trees.

However, they are only utilized when needed and so do not saturate the insides of our trees as well as within the actual nervous system.

These vesicles are how the neurotransmitters travel through the nervous system.

The part in which touch on the neurons are dendrites to the somas of the other cells. When it comes time for a neuron to send a message, one of the messengers is in fact this bubbled up chemical package.

Before one cell receives the message or contents from this vesicle, it must first pass through a place called the synaptic cleft, and a place that seems to be the major area for this particular disruption of biology that output the zombified.

Synaptic Cleft

Imagine two puzzle pieces; one of which that snaps into the other with a protruding curve and the other that has a penetrating curve spot for it to accept the other piece.

If we could zoom into the this connection, and specifically the top part of the connecting pieces where they physically align, we could call this the synaptic cleft.

In this area of the cleft, we find all the mechanisms and actions for communication between cells as well as much of the possible dysfunction in depression.

Because it isn’t cardboard, and is essential to understanding what is happening in this possible biological glitch, let us consider a few details of this bridge.

Imagine after having zoomed in to this connection on the cardboard puzzle pieces and seeing vertical slits on both sides of the connection. These could be seen as openings and thereby pathways between the pieces.

In neurons, or at the tip edge similar to the puzzle pieces, biologists call them “channels.”

Similar to the neurotransmitters, there are more than we need to be concerned with, but for a basic idea, let us observe the most fundamental that have been said to possibly be involved in the death-like physiology of some depressed.

Voltage-gated calcium channels: These are located on the pre-synaptic terminal of the neurons axon, or, the puzzle piece in this connection that is sending a message. They play a role in allowing a large amount of calcium ions to rush in to the cell. When this happens, the bubbles containing our neurotransmitters fuse (become one) to the membrane (cell wall) and thereby release their components into the synaptic cleft.

Ligand-gated ion channels: These channels are found on the post-synaptic cell, and directly look to uptake the neurotransmitters that have been released into the cleft, giving them passage into a receptor, or the mechanism that comprises the top part of the channel.

The Problem

Now, as we have alluded to, this is a rudimentary view of the processes involved with what could possibly explain the antagonist of a biological deficiency of depression, but we will close in such fashion.

We will look at a more detailed post on this unfortunate biological disarray in a later post.

Simply, the neurotransmitters are not being taken up by the post synaptic cell.

As we can infer from the functioning that they contribute to (learning, happiness, sleep, hunger, memory, anxiety, heart function, aggression, pleasure, reward, arousal) that things are not going to go well if they are not messaging as they should.

Therefore, the good feelings that one should attain from a stimuli in their environment, are never activated and never shared.

It’s as if the ability to feel, or any other aspect of the effects of neurotransmitters create, has been deactivated, and the reality of the individual becomes what is left.