“We argue that depression is in fact an adaptation, a state of mind which brings real costs, but also brings real benefits.”

August 26, 2009 at 4:43 pm (By Amba)

Otherwise, how to explain its universal prevalence?  It has been found in just about every culture studied, of all states of social complexity.  So it is not a discontent of civilization, nor is it a dysfunction of older age:  the first episode tends to strike in adolescence or young adulthood, if not even earlier.  And studies show that “between 30 to 50 percent of people have met current psychiatric diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder sometime in their lives.”

There’s a serotonin receptor in mammalian brains, implicated in depression, that has been highly conserved by evolution:  it is 99 percent similar in rats and humans.  “The ability to ‘turn on’ depression would seem to be important, then, not an accident.”

So given how impairing and even dangerous depression is, what could it be good for?  What could “drive the evolution of such a costly emotion”?  Can you guess?  Read and find out.

These authors think that rather than a malfunction, “depression seems more like the vertebrate eye—an intricate, highly organized piece of machinery that performs a specific function.”

Makes sense to me.


  1. Ron said,

    Hot Damn! I think i’ve evolved enough in my life to be a new frickin’ species by now!

  2. Donna B. said,

    Ron… is this new species eligible for government benefits?????

  3. Rod said,

    The benefits of depression are overrated.

  4. Donna B. said,

    The attention seems to have shifted to norepinephrine and dopamine recently. Oh, and GABA. It seems there’s a recognition that serotonin does not work alone.

    I haven’t heard anything recently about the apparent discovery that SSRI’s promoted neurogenesis and that was the reason they appeared to help with depression. Did that get nullified and I missed it?

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