Depression is a brain illness characterised by a persistent lowering of mood which may sometimes manifest as irritability in young people.
Other symptoms include disturbed sleep, loss of motivation, changes in appetite and sexual interest, anxiety and impaired concentration. Both genetic and environmental factors (such as stress), have been associated with depression. There is no cure. Current treatments are anti-depressant drugs and psychological therapy.
Until recently, adolescents have been neglected as a research target, at least partly due to the absence of laboratory models to study how and why adolescents are particularly vulnerable to anxiety disorders compared to other ages. Florey scientists are conducting both pre-clinical and human studies to compare adolescent and adult brain structure and chemistry and using this information to develop new treatment interventions in adolescent anxiety.
In another study, data suggests changes in the frontal cortex are causing the cognitive deficits experienced by people with depression. This is important because these cognitive deficits can change perception of our environment and this could be critical in the onset of depression. We know that drugs that target components of the pathways we have identified can marginally improve the symptoms of depression and once we understand the mechanisms by which the overall balance of biochemical pathways occurs in depression we predict we will be able to suggest new treatment strategies.