neuroplasticity and depression
Neuroplasticity theory posits that the brain has a structure that is pliable, and that a healthy one maintains an ability to develop new neurological pathways when introduced a new skill. Our brains have the capacity to strengthen these clusters of learned information with practice over time. This means that an adult can still learn an instrument, or a new language, at an older age. That said, a younger brain has stronger clusters of neurons in related fields that may help develop and fortify certain abilities. In theory, similar clusters have been pruned by an adult brain long ago. Additionally, adults have had the time to become victims of the plastic paradox: an adult brain, for example, has likely developed rigid behaviors counterproductive to absorbing and maintaining new neurons like a young, developing, and hyper-plastic mind can. Norman Doidge’s notion of ‘the plastic paradox’ states that neuroplasticity not only accounts for our brains’ flexibility in learning new behaviors, but also its tendency to produce and develop rigid ones. He observes that “the spontaneity, creativity, and unpredictability of childhood gives way to routinized existence that repeats the same behavior and turns us into rigid caricatures of ourselves.” Doidge’s explanation of the negative side of neuroplasticity immediately leads me to questions about how mental health is impacted by this inner battle of flexibility and rigidity. My current body of work, for example, attempts to anthropomorphize our personal demons in a manner that also happens to showcase their hidden beauty. These figures are inspired by my own decades-long battle with depression, and the ways in which I have had to learn how to work with the darker parts of myself in order to function, and eventually begin to thrive. I have had to pinpoint activities that I know are good for me and commit to doing those things regularly even if I don’t want to, simply because experience has proven that they will keep my depression in check. My brain has strengthened these clusters with practice over time. I have practiced my willpower to go on a run when I don’t want to but I know I need one, and I have strengthened my awareness of when I need a creative break by making some soup. I am constantly striving to work alongside my depression, and my personal demons. One could even say that it’s my depression that has made me a better runner, a better cook, a better artist, and a better person. These reflections led me to a scholarly article titled “Antidepressants and neuroplasticity” in which the authors examine the neurological impacts of chronic depression and antidepressant use. D’Sa and Duman suggest that depression is associated to a mechanical disturbance in area of the brain that governs neural plasticity, and that chronic antidepressant treatment can increase the brain’s rate of neurogenesis. Reading about the interrelatedness of neuroplasticity and depression makes me reconsider my perception on the effectiveness of my own medication. I have great pride for the rigid habits that I have worked hard to break, and the new healthier ones that I am still learning to strengthen. Is this because my antidepressants are increasing my ability to grow and develop new clusters? Is my learning to recognize signs of an impending episode part of this increased rate of neurogenesis? Growth is the absolute best depression antidote, in my experience.
neuroplasticity and depression
Neuroplasticity theory posits that the brain has a structure that is pliable, and that a healthy one maintains an ability to develop new neurological pathways when introduced a new skill. Our brains have the capacity to strengthen these clusters of learned information with practice over time. This means that an adult can still learn an instrument, or a new language, at an older age. That said, a younger brain has stronger clusters of neurons in related fields that may help develop and fortify certain abilities. In theory, similar clusters have been pruned by an adult brain long ago. Additionally, adults have had the time to become victims of the plastic paradox: an adult brain, for example, has likely developed rigid behaviors counterproductive to absorbing and maintaining new neurons like a young, developing, and hyper-plastic mind can. Norman Doidge’s notion of ‘the plastic paradox’ states that neuroplasticity not only accounts for our brains’ flexibility in learning new behaviors, but also its tendency to produce and develop rigid ones. He observes that “the spontaneity, creativity, and unpredictability of childhood gives way to routinized existence that repeats the same behavior and turns us into rigid caricatures of ourselves.” Doidge’s explanation of the negative side of neuroplasticity immediately leads me to questions about how mental health is impacted by this inner battle of flexibility and rigidity. My current body of work, for example, attempts to anthropomorphize our personal demons in a manner that also happens to showcase their hidden beauty. These figures are inspired by my own decades-long battle with depression, and the ways in which I have had to learn how to work with the darker parts of myself in order to function, and eventually begin to thrive. I have had to pinpoint activities that I know are good for me and commit to doing those things regularly even if I don’t want to, simply because experience has proven that they will keep my depression in check. My brain has strengthened these clusters with practice over time. I have practiced my willpower to go on a run when I don’t want to but I know I need one, and I have strengthened my awareness of when I need a creative break by making some soup. I am constantly striving to work alongside my depression, and my personal demons. One could even say that it’s my depression that has made me a better runner, a better cook, a better artist, and a better person. These reflections led me to a scholarly article titled “Antidepressants and neuroplasticity” in which the authors examine the neurological impacts of chronic depression and antidepressant use. D’Sa and Duman suggest that depression is associated to a mechanical disturbance in area of the brain that governs neural plasticity, and that chronic antidepressant treatment can increase the brain’s rate of neurogenesis. Reading about the interrelatedness of neuroplasticity and depression makes me reconsider my perception on the effectiveness of my own medication. I have great pride for the rigid habits that I have worked hard to break, and the new healthier ones that I am still learning to strengthen. Is this because my antidepressants are increasing my ability to grow and develop new clusters? Is my learning to recognize signs of an impending episode part of this increased rate of neurogenesis? Growth is the absolute best depression antidote, in my experience.