Can Depression Alter the Structure of Your Brain?

depression alter brain structure

While it is certainly one of the main reasons why people visit a psychiatrist, scientists still know very little about depression. A lot of effective treatments have been developed over the years, but recent studies have been more focused on finding the cause of depression. One of those studies seems to have found that changes in the brain structure could be what’s causing depressive disorders.

So, how can depression alter brain structure?

What Is Depression?

One of the most common mood disorders, depression is a condition whose symptoms can range from mild to severe. It’s usually recognized as a feeling of sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness that can last for a couple of days or even years. This long-lasting severe depression is called major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of MDD.

  • Constant feeling of hopelessness and sadness;
  • Fatigue;
  • Extreme changes in appetite (increase or decrease);
  • Sleeping too little or too much;
  • Thoughts about suicide and death;
  • Difficulty concentrating, thinking, and making decisions.

Does Depression Alter Our Brain Structure?

Scientists believe that cortisol levels are what’s causing brain changes in three parts of the brain: the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and amygdala. When our bodies produce high levels of this hormone (usually due to stress), it can affect our mood, memory, and sleep patterns – all of which are typical signs of MDD.

A study by the University of Edinburgh also found that people with MDD had reduced white matter integrity compared to healthy people. This study provides us with a better understanding of depression’s mechanisms and a chance to develop new treatments.


So, can depression alter brain structure? The latest finding seems to confirm this notion, giving us an interesting insight and a possibility to better understand and treat this condition.

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