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UCSD Researchers Say Depression May Be Caused By Inflammation In The Brain

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Aired 10/26/10

Researchers at UCSD say they've come up with a novel theory of depression. According to their theory, clinical depression is caused by the malfunctioning of the brain's repair system.

Researchers at UCSD say they've come up with a novel theory of depression. According to their theory, clinical depression is caused by the malfunctioning of the brain's repair system.

The theory goes like this: When a person suffers from a traumatic event, the physical structure of their brain needs to be remodeled. The process uses the mechanism of injury repair, which involves pain and inflammation.

Researcher Karen Wager-Smith said these responses may not shut off.

"And we think that because these mechanisms are invoked during the depressive process," she said, "they're prone to causing pathological depression, where the depression maybe triggers without any apparent cause, or is chronic, or is exaggerated."

Wager-Smith said anti-inflammatory drugs may be effective for the treatment of depression, if her theory is borne out.

The National Institute of Mental Health says nearly 15 million Americans are affected by depression. It's the leading cause of disability in people 15 to 44.

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