A certain gene may explain why some people fall into depression and others cope better when faced with periods of stress and anxiety.
A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has revealed that those who have variants of the genes for a brain chemical called galanin were more likely to develop depression than those with normal galanin.
Galanin is a peptide thought to be involved in regulating pain and normal bodily processes such as waking and sleeping, feeding, blood pressure and mood. It is found in the human nervous system and has, in a number of former studies been associated with playing a role in how people cope with stress and anxiety.
Essentially, the study found that galanin can make people more vulnerable to psychological stress, thus enhancing their chances of developing depression.
Although the causes of depression are unknown, genetic and environmental factors (stress and trauma) have been shown to put people at high risk.
Despite this, researchers of the study highlight that other factors could be at play: “Not all people who suffer from [environmental and genetic factors] will be depressed. The resilience or vulnerability to these stressors and thus depression, is likely to reside in our genes.”
Although it is not yet clear how the galanin system fits in the development of depression, the new results do suggest that it should be explored as a target for producing new antidepressants.