Narrator: This is Science Today. While it's
clear that stress can make depression worse, it's
never been clear why this is. Owen Wolkowitz, a professor
of psychiatry at the University of California, San
Francisco says it's been thought that in people who
are genetically predisposed to depression, stress
can - by some mysterious way - cause alterations in
neurotransmitters in the brain, such as seritonin
Wolkowitz: What our research is looking at
is, is there an understandable biological connection
between stress and subsequent disregulation of neurotransmitters
that then leads to depression?
Narrator: Wolkowitz found intriguing data backing
the theory that stress may trigger depression in a
study of patients with Cushing's Disease. In this
syndrome, there's a spontaneous increase in levels
of a stress hormone called cortisol.
Wolkowitz: So it's not in response to stress,
it's just a primary event. About ninety percent of
those patients develop symptoms reminiscent of major
depression, so it stands to reason that cortisol or
some steroid that's being affected there can actually
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.