Depression is not simply a mood disorder, a feeling of sadness, or being ill at ease. Depression can completely shut a person down, manifesting as an inability to make decisions, to take action, to think. Even sleep is affected by depression.
Researchers and clinicians who treat depression are learning that the physical manifestations can be mirrored by internal, cellular changes. Some people with depression have decreases in their gray matter volume, particularly in areas like the hippocampus (important to memory, learning, and emotions) and prefrontal cortex (where higher-level thought and planning abilities are based).
Additionally, imaging has shown a decrease in the number of synapses—the structures through which electrical or chemical signals are passed between neurons and other cells—in persons with chronic depression. Without the signals that synapses transmit, brain function is disrupted.
And without intervention in depression, synapse decrease can continue.
While there are drugs and behavioral therapies to treat depression, these therapies can be slow to act and sometimes ineffective. In addition, once synaptic loss has occurred, these therapies are less effective.
“It has long been recognized that these compounds (serotonergic psychedelics like psilocybin) may have therapeutic potential for neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction”.
The following blog highlights the presentation from Dr. Charles Raison at the International Forum on Consciousness, Conscious Evolution: The Awakening, co-hosted by the BTC Institute and Promega Corporation, May 7–8, 2015.
The Forum is designed to bring together people from diverse perspectives and professions to facilitate public dialogue regarding complex and challenging issues. This year, our intent was to respond to voices of wisdom and action that call for us to shift our consciousness up a notch.
Our goals included building on the lessons of past and present in order to grow further into new systems, new ways of being that may better allow us to foster a long-term, sustainable relationship with the biosphere and the ever-evolving cosmos.
A full house of 325+ attendees, we were guided by eight outstanding presenters, all of whose talks and panel discussions may be viewed via links from our website (http://www.btci.org/consciousness/). Our first speaker, Dr. Charles Raison, who recently joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin , effectively set the stage for the Forum, piquing interest for the talks and discussions that followed, as well as the many related conversations that continue to flow.
A few highlights from his talk:
Science strives for objectivity but every scientist has a personal motivation regarding the work they’ve come to do.
Quoting John Muir, “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” Looking at consciousness this way is interesting – not mystical, but actually scientific.
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