Eva Redei, David Lawrence Stein Professor of Psychiatry at Northwestern’s Feinberg School, has presented a study that throws a monkey wrench in the scientific rationale that is used to justify giving out antidepressant medication. She has clearly demonstrated, for the first time, that genes involved with stress are different from genes involved with depression. Since antidepressant medication is targeting stress-related function of neurotransmitters they are, in essence, missing the boat.

Right now antidepressant medication is being massively over-prescribed to children throughout the country, even though it is clear from other data that these drugs have very limited usefulness.

Redei explains the importance of the study, “This is a huge study and statistically powerful. This research opens up new routes to develop new antidepressants that may be more effective. There hasn’t been an antidepressant based on a novel concept in 20 years.”

Redei and her team meticulously created and analyzed two distinct animal study populations, one that was depressed and one that was stressed. Using sophisticated gene array analysis she then went on to show which sets of genes were activated in each group. There was virtually no overlap. This proves for the first time that being stressed out does not cause and is not the same thing as being depressed. Furthermore, drugs for depression are more targeted for stress, not depression. Her gene analysis showed that neurotransmitters were not the issue in depression, rather, they were relevant to stress.

“The medications have been focusing on the effect, not the cause,” Redei said. “That’s why it takes so long for them to work and why they aren’t effective for so many people.”

The genes related to depression were more fundamental than the neurotransmitters. They had more to do with the development and functioning of neurons. In other words they have more to do with generating nerve network connections, new nerve cells, and nerve plasticity. And now we are into the study of glial cells, BDNF, immune/nerve cytokine cross talk, brain inflammation, the ability of the brain to recover from inflammation, and a whole host of topics that quality nutrition excels at addressing.

Quality nutrition could readily replace 95% of brain medication in use today – with no side effects and far less cost. A good diet and consistent exercise would keep many people from needing help in the first place – as would good parenting, improved problem-solving, and better stress management skills.

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