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Effects of Depression on Memory

Depression is defined as a serious disturbance in a person’s mood, which greatly interferes with his/her ability to function effectively, for instance, ability to eat, work, have fun, and sleep. Even though, people experience mood swings from time to time, extreme low feelings of unhappiness that are caused by disappointment, setbacks, and daily struggles with life can make an individual feel apathetic, empty, and lifeless. These are critical signs of depression. If an individual fails to overcome these emotional and psychological challenges, depression takes hold of him/her, thus, decreasing ability of his or her body to function normally. In advanced forms of depression, body systems, such as the digestive system, central nervous system and lymphatic system, ceases to function normally. As a result of this, depression has been associated with loss of appetites, sexual drive, sleep, and ability to enjoy hobbies in people suffering from its chronic forms.

Psychiatrists and researchers in the mental health sector have identified two forms of depressive disorders, namely the clinical major depressive disorder (MDD) and the manic bipolar disorder (MBD). The bipolar disorder is characterized by flashing episodes of hypomania or mania, which are generally marred with depressive episodes in between. Researchers hold the firm belief that the full blown clinical major depressive disorder develops from bipolar disorder, in case no therapeutic measures are taken to avert the latter from further developing (Clarke, 2010). Several research studies have been conducted in the wider fields of neuroscience and psychiatry, to investigate the possible impacts of depression on the functions of brain in regard to memory. The research paper will study the results of these researches and prove that depression can seriously damage the ill person’s memory.

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Effects of Depression on Memory

According to Professor Gary B. Nash (2008), head of the neuroscience Department at the University of Hamburg, people suffering from bipolar depression or the major depressive disorder depression have problems with the brain functions and central nervous systems in general; moreover, the structures of their brains are deformed to a larger extent. The latest brain imaging techniques disclose that transmission of the impulses within the neurons of the brain in a healthy person is totally different from the depressed person’s one. Most remarkably, the neural transmission in depressed patients seems to be irregular, slow and fluctuating in magnitude. This indicates that impulses are not sufficient and stable enough to sustain the normal functioning of the brain, such as memory.

Memory is one of the most important executive functions of the brain, which is affected by depression. In the course of his research studies, Nash (2008) observed that 80% of his patients suffering from both bipolar and major depressive disorder were very forgetful and experienced much difficulty making decision, initiating tasks, organizing thoughts, and planning future actions. The rates at which depressed patients forgot to recall past incidences were alarming. This was a clear indication that there was a correlation between memory loss and depression. In several instances, it was observed that those suffering from chronic depression do not perform regular actions, including eating and tidying up their rooms, on their own initiative. Although this imminent lack of the drive is attributed to a withdrawal syndrome, loss of coordination and disrupted neural transmission within the brain is at play (Clarke, 2010).

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There are several theories advanced to explain how depression causes memory loss. The neurotransmitter model explains that imbalances of bio-chemicals, namely neurotransmitters, relay impulses between the neurons of different brain cells (dendrites) to ensure communication and coordination between different parts of the brain. Consequently, the ability of the brain to store new information is highly compromised.

Depression impairs the power of the brain to generate and sustain long term memories, which is often confused with forgetfulness. Clarke (2010) is categorical and states that lack of concentration and attention is caused by the reduced activity of the brain. When information is being passed to the short term memory, it cannot be stored within the brain cells for a longer period. Considering that a depressed person is known to be too unfocused and inattentive in the process of filing passing events temporarily in the short term memory, much information goes unnoticed, hence, cannot be recalled.

Nevertheless, depression plays a very significant role in skewing the type and nature of memories, which patients are inclined to recall. In his article, Nash (2008) explains that the depressed people are deeply skewed in the manner they recall information, while being in their melancholic state. The depressed persons have been observed to recall actively mostly forlorn experiences, which evoke negative feelings of dejection. The psychiatrist maintains that it is this selective recall of negative experiences by the depressed persons that people around them interpret as a memory loss. Moreover, this peculiar ability to remember negative experiences further aggravates the pangs of depression to deeper levels. At the bottom line, patient’s drab and depressing view of life increases the magnitude of depression.

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Finally, the brain imaging technology, called positron emission tomography (PET), has also accentuated a reliable connection between memory and depression. The positron emission tomography (PET) reveals that the activity of the brain cells, located in the frontal lobes of the brain, is reduced significantly in depressed people. This is caused by the lower concentration of a brain chemical, serotonin, which provides cells with the energy they require to function optimally.

In conclusion, depression devastatingly reduces the ability of the brain to capture, store and retrieve information in the depressed person due to the resultant reduced activity of the brain cells.

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