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Is Depression a Neurological Disorder?

Scott Loeb DO
Medically reviewed by Dr. Loeb
Scott Loeb DO
Medically reviewed by Dr. Loeb

Low mood, constant tiredness, and loss of joy lasting more than two weeks are often diagnosed as depression. Doctors usually consider this disease a mental disorder, but it also has a biological basis. This applies to neurology. Depression has attracted much attention in the scientific community regarding its biological basis. Neurological factors are increasingly becoming central players in depression research.

One of the key participants in this neurobiological symphony is serotonin. It is a neurotransmitter often associated with mood regulation. An imbalance in serotonin levels has been linked to symptoms of depression. This raises interest in how brain chemistry may contribute to the onset and duration of depression. In addition, doctors often observe structural changes in the brain in people with depression.

Is depression a neurological disorder? As research progresses, the line between mental and neurological disorders becomes increasingly blurred. The intersection of psychiatry and neurology is a dynamic field. This offers hope for a more complete understanding of conditions such as depression. It is difficult to say unequivocally whether this disease belongs to only one branch of medicine or only to another branch of medicine. But we will try to understand this in more detail.

 

The Nature of Depression

Is depression a neurological disorder? Depression is more than just fleeting sadness. It is a multifaceted phenomenon that intertwines psychological, social, and biological threads.

Psychologically, depression often manifests as a persistent and pervasive low mood. Several cognitive and emotional problems accompany it. Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and diminished interest in once enjoyable activities characterize this complex, vibrant tapestry.

Depression can cast a shadow on interpersonal relationships and day-to-day functioning. Isolation is an everyday companion of depression. It can further intensify the emotional struggle.

When looking at depression and neurological disorders, neurotransmitters continue to be a key player. Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine regulate mood and emotional reactions. Individuals struggling with depression can disrupt the delicate balance of these neurotransmitters. Also, depression can occur as a companion to other neurological diseases.

But let’s not forget about the individuality of depression. Each person’s experience is unique and influenced by many factors. They include genetics, life experiences, and even the specific mix of neurotransmitters in the brain. Unraveling the nature of depression requires peeling back these layers, acknowledging the diversity of this blanket term, and recognizing that one size does not fit all when it comes to understanding and treating depression.

Upset woman holding her head

 

Depression and Neurological Disorders

In some cases, neurological disorders can cause depressive symptoms. In other cases, depression can exacerbate the symptoms of an underlying neurological condition. Depression and neurological disorders often have a complex and bidirectional relationship. Let’s explore this complex relationship by focusing on a few examples:

  • Parkinson’s disease. This neurodegenerative disease mainly affects motor functions due to the loss of neurons. However, it is not just a movement disorder. Many people with Parkinson’s disease also experience non-motor symptoms, and depression is one of the most common. The exact cause of depression in Parkinson’s disease is not entirely clear, but it is most likely multifactorial. The emotional and physical problems associated with Parkinson’s disease can contribute to symptoms of depression. Treating depression in Parkinson’s disease is critical. It can have a significant impact on overall quality of life.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It leads to various physical symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle weakness, and coordination problems. However, it is also associated with mood disorders, including depression. The exact relationship between MS and depression is still being researched. This can be a result of both the direct effects of inflammation on the brain and the emotional burden of living with a chronic, unpredictable condition. Management of depression in MS is essential. The disease can further reduce a person’s ability to cope with physical symptoms. This can lead to a worsening of the prognosis.

These are just two examples of neurological disorders that often coexist with depression. But the connection extends to other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and stroke, among others. Healthcare providers need to consider the emotional well-being of patients with neurological disorders. 

Close-up of a neural cell network

 

Neurological Treatment for Depression

Neurological treatments aim to affect the neurochemical and structural aspects of the brain. Here are some of the primary neurological approaches to treating depression.

  • Pharmacotherapy. The most common neurological treatment for depression is the use of antidepressants. These drugs can affect the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. The choice of medication is often based on a person’s specific symptoms and needs.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT is a highly effective but invasive neurological treatment. Doctors use it for severe, treatment-resistant depression. It involves the induction of controlled seizures using electrical stimulation of the brain. ECT is used in cases where other methods of treatment have proved ineffective.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS is a non-invasive neurological treatment. It uses electromagnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain, often the prefrontal cortex. This stimulation can modulate neural activity and positively affect mood regulation.
  • Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). VNS is an implanted device that delivers electrical impulses to the vagus nerve. VNS can help relieve symptoms of depression. It is usually used in cases resistant to treatment.
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS is a more experimental neurological treatment. It involves the implantation of electrodes in certain areas of the brain. Its effectiveness in treating depression is still being studied.

Neurological treatments for depression are often considered when other therapies have failed. The choice of treatment depends on the individual factors and potential risks.

Brain activity and neural network

 

Neurological Effects of Depression on the Brain

Depression can have a significant effect on the brain. This leads to various neurological impacts and changes. These effects are complex and interrelated. Here are some of the neurological effects of depression on the brain.

  • Hippocampal atrophy. Long-term and severe depression is associated with reduced hippocampal volume. This area of the brain is critical for memory and emotional regulation.
  • Dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision making, problem solving, and emotional regulation. It may show altered activity and connectivity in people with depression.
  • Imbalance of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters play a vital role in mood regulation. Their dysregulation can contribute to the emergence of psychological symptoms of depression.
  • Neuroinflammation. Some research suggests a link between inflammation in the brain and depression.
  • Neuroplasticity. Depression can affect the brain’s ability to adapt and change. Reduced neuroplasticity can make it challenging to learn and adapt to new situations.

Not everyone with depression will experience the same brain changes. Furthermore, the relationship between depression and these neurological effects of depression is complex. Early treatment of depression can potentially moderate some of these neurological changes.

 

Conclusion

Is depression a neurological disorder? In summary, the relationship between these two factors is complex and multifaceted. Depression is not only a mental health condition. It also has neurological aspects. They have a complex relationship with the structure and function of the brain.

The fragile balance of neurotransmitters in the brain can affect depression. Disruption of neural connections can contribute to the appearance of depressive symptoms.

In addition, we delved into neurological treatment for depression. These interventions aim to alter the neurochemistry and function of the brain to ease symptoms of depression.

Finally, we discussed the neurological effects on the brain. These neurological effects emphasize the need for early intervention. It improves treatment and mitigates the effects of depression on brain health.

The intersection of depression and neurology continues to be an area of active research. This gives hope for more effective treatments and a deeper understanding of the complex workings of the human brain. Lone Star Neurology can often improve the condition of people with this disorder.

 

FAQ

Is depression primarily a mental health disorder or a neurological one?

While traditionally seen as a mental health disorder, it has significant neurological implications.

 

How does depression manifest in neurological disorders like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis?

Such neurological disorders often have symptoms of depression. Among them, doctors single out:

  • constant bad mood
  • hopelessness,
  • loss of interest in activities.

 

How does depression change the brain’s structure or function?

Depression can change the structure of the brain. This causes atrophy of the hippocampus and changes its function. This affects the balance of neurotransmitters and neural connections.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been prepared.read more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well together.read more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your business.read more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any cookies.read more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going there.read more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my treatment.read more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to finish.read more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 stars.read more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his staff.read more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best treatment.read more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my doctor.read more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding solutions.read more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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