Mental health is quickly becoming one of the most-discussed issues of the 21st Century. Whether it's the rise in cases of clinical depression among youth, the lingering effects of PTSD in veterans and people who have experienced traumatic events, or even just the impact that different parenting styles have on a child emotionally, we're slowly but surely beginning to understand the human brain a bit better.
That being said, there are still a number of questions that remain out of our capability to answer. Questions like: "What causes depression?", "Why are some people more prone to mental illness than others?" and "What can be done to prevent these conditions from manifesting?"
Plenty of research is being done on the subject, as human lives are genuinely at stake because of many of these conditions. While it's difficult to discover any definitive answers to these questions, a new study done by researchers at the University of Cambridge may have stumbled onto one of the biggest breakthroughs in some time...
Using a combination of magnetic imaging and spectroscopy, researchers were able to discover the presence of GABA - a brain chemical known as a "neurotransmitter" (meaning it allows messages to pass between nerve cells).
According to the research, GABA concentrates in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that deals with memory retention, and actively blocks the retrieval of certain memories within the brain, usually traumatic ones. This means that a person who is prone to invasive, negative thoughts will likely have a lower concentration of GABA than others, meaning fewer thoughts are being blocked.
Researcher Michael Anderson commented on the discovery, saying that:
"Our ability to control our thoughts is fundamental to our well-being. When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms of psychiatric diseases: intrusive memories, images, hallucinations, ruminations, and pathological and persistent worries.
These are all key symptoms of mental illnesses such as PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety."
While the research is still experimental, the discovery of GABA could definitely lead to some new developments in treatments for the illnesses Anderson describes, which would ultimately benefit all of humankind.
What do you think of this breakthrough?