This week focused on mental illnesses. One of the first things we learned in the lecture was that that the brain disorders cause huge costs to society. In Finland the total costs of brain disorders are 4.242 billion per year and in Europe 797.725 billion. It was interesting to hear how the relationship to mental illnesses have changed when knowledge has increased. We got an impression that relationship to mental illnesses has been mostly psychological hundred years ago before increased neurological knowledge. The way mechanism behind anxiety disorder explained in the lecture helped us to understand how the biological basis of brain disorder can emerge.
There are three major components in anxiety disorder; Amygdala, HPA system and Hippocampus. Amygdala activation stimulates the HPA system and the stress response which increases cortisol in blood stream. Hippocampus, on the other hand, suppresses the HPA system in response to increased cortisol. In chronic stress, cortisol is constantly elevated which may cause hippocampal cell death which leads to vicious circle and aggravated anxiety.
Another example given in the lecture was depression. There was not as much neurological explanation for depression as with anxiety disorder but the statistics of depression was gloomy to listen. However, It raises hope that increased knowledge about mental disorders has led to development of drugs that not only alleviate symptoms temporarily but also promote long-term adaptive changes in the brain which alleviate, for example, depression more permanently.
Väinö, Ruhoollah and Maria