Importance of Breakfast: Mood, Anxiety, Depression and More


I’ve been skipping breakfast a lot lately, and that hasn’t been my habit in years past. It occurred to me after reading 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris (who advocates a high protein meal in the morning) that I may be doing some legitimate harm to myself.

This study isn’t exactly my age group, but I think it might still be applicable… I’ll consider myself a student of life until I’m dead. Maybe I should consider making an effort to grab breakfast in the morning? See below:

Conducted in public schools in Philadelphia and Baltimore, the study found that increased school breakfast participation correlated with less tardiness and absence, higher math grades, and reductions in problems like depression, anxiety and hyperactivity. The researchers also found that students were more like to participate in school breakfast programs when the meals were offered free to all students, compared with programs that provided free meals to low-income youngsters while others paid for their breakfasts. [...]

They also showed greater improvement in student-reported levels of depression and anxiety and, for the Baltimore students, reduced levels of hyperactivity, as reported by teachers. (via.)


Children of Depressed Mothers Have Reduced Muscle Tone at 2 weeks


At two weeks old, researchers found that the children of depressed mothers had decreased muscle tone compared to those born to mothers who weren’t depressed, yet they adjusted more quickly to stimuli like a bell, rattle or light — a sign of neurological maturity.

“It’s difficult to say to what extent these differences are good or bad, or what impact they might have over a longer time frame,” says the study’s lead author, Sheila Marcus, M.D., clinical director of U-M’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Section.

“We’re just beginning to look at these differences as part of a whole collection of data points that could be risk markers. These in turn would identify women who need attention during pregnancy or mother/infant pairs who might benefit from postpartum programs known to support healthy infant development through mom/baby relationships.” (via.)


Social component key to link between happiness & religiosity


According to the study, 33 percent of people who attend religious services every week and have three to five close friends in their congregation report that they are “extremely satisfied” with their lives. “Extremely satisfied” is defined as a 10 on a scale ranging from 1 to 10.

In comparison, only 19 percent of people who attend religious services weekly, but who have no close friends in their congregation report that they are extremely satisfied. On the other hand, 23 percent of people who attend religious services only several times a year, but who have three to five close friends in their congregation are extremely satisfied with their lives. (via.)


Copy number variations (CNV) in depression


A large genetic study of people with major depression has found that a duplicated region of DNA on chromosome 5 predisposes people to the disorder. The gene involved plays an important role in the development of nerve cells, adding to evidence that disruptions in neurotransmission networks form a biological basis for depression. [...]

[This study] is the first large-scale genome-wide study of copy number variation (CNV) in major depressive disorder (MDD), a major psychiatric and behavioral disorder affecting an estimated 16 percent of the U.S. population. [...]

Hakonarson’s group conducted a whole-genome scan of DNA from 1,693 patients with MDD, mainly from a European database, and from 4,506 control subjects.

The researchers identified 12 CNVs exclusive to MDD cases. Their most notable finding was a large duplication of DNA segments on chromosome 5q35.1, a CNV shared by five unrelated patients and not observed in healthy controls. Residing at that location is the gene SLIT3, which is involved in axon development. The axon is the portion of a neuron that carries nerve impulses away from the cell body. (via.)

Original source: “Duplication of the SLIT3 Locus on 5q35.1 Predisposes to Major Depressive Disorder,” PLoS One, published online Dec. 1, 2010.


Anabolic steroids, depression, BDNF & morning corticosterone levels


Abuse of anabolic androgenic steroids (AASs) is frequently associated with changes in mood, including depression. [...] We used male adult rats injected for 4 weeks with either nandrolone or stanozolol at daily doses (5 mg/kg, s.c.) that are considered equivalent to those abused by humans [...] AAS treatment reduced levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, reduced the expression of low-affinity glucocorticoid receptors in the hippocampus, and increased morning trough basal plasma corticosterone levels. All these changes have been related to the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder. Accordingly, rats treated with nandrolone or stanozolol showed an increased immobility time in the forced swim test, which is widely used for the screening of antidepressant drugs. All effects produced by AASs were prevented by co-administration with the classical antidepressant, chlorimipramine. (via.)


“Exhaustion Syndrome” & Depression


Certain personality traits heighten susceptibility to psychiatric disorders. Therefore a research team at Umeå University wanted to study whether this patient group had any susceptibility factors that could explain the development of their disorder. The patient group is distinguished by being anxious and pessimistic, with a weak sense of self, which is common in many psychiatric disorders. What was special about this group was that they stood out as persistent, ambitious, and pedantic individuals.

Being ambitious, fastidious, and overachieving also appears to make a person more prone to exhaustion syndrome. According to Agneta Sandström’s dissertation, individuals with exhaustion syndrome demonstrate impaired memory and attention capacity as well as reduced brain activity in parts of the frontal lobes. Regulation of the stress hormone cortisol is also impacted in the group, with altered sensitivity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). [...]

The HPA axis in the patient group shows reduced sensitivity in the pituitary, with less secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) following stimulation with corticotropin (CRH), as well as heightened sensitivity in the adrenal cortex, with increased release of cortisol in relation to the amount of ACTH secreted. There is also a difference in the diurnal rhythm of cortisol, with the patients presenting a flatter secretion curve than the other two groups. The researchers could not detect any reduction in the volume of the hippocampus in the patient group. The proportion of individuals with measurable levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 1 is higher in the patient group. (via.)


Circaedian Rhythm & Depression: Light at night alters hippocampus development


Researchers found that female Siberian hamsters exposed to dim light every night for eight weeks showed significant changes in a part of the brain called the hippocampus.

This is the first time researchers have found that light at night, by itself, may be linked to changes in the hippocampus.

These alterations may be a key reason why the researchers also found that the hamsters exposed to dim light at night showed more depressive symptoms when compared to hamsters in a standard light-dark cycle.

“Even dim light at night is sufficient to provoke depressive-like behaviors in hamsters, which may be explained by the changes we saw in their brains after eight weeks of exposure,” said Tracy Bedrosian, co-author of the study and doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University. [...]

The results are significant because the night-time light used in the study was not bright: 5 lux, or the equivalent of having a television on in a darkened room, said Randy Nelson, co-author of the study and professor of neuroscience and psychology at Ohio State. (via.)


Orchid: S-allele “Depression-Risk Gene” and Potential Cognitive/Social Benefits


The reclamation of the “depression gene” proceeds apace: In a paper titled “Looking on the Bright Side of Serotonin Transporter Gene Variation,” two researchers who helped establish the “depression risk-gene” view of depression assert quite strongly that the genetic variant in question — the s-allele of the serotonin transporter gene, HTTLPR — possess greater social sensitivity than people without this variant, and have some significant cognitive advantages as well. (via.)


Robert Sapolsky’s 52 minute Lecture on Depression


This is one of the best videos I’ve ever seen on the physiological roots of depression. This guy (Robert Sapolsky) really goes in-depth and connects the dots between scientific facts and common philosophy & anecdote. 52 minutes — not for the faint of heart.