Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why depression is black and grey

Depression really does turn the world grey, study shows Depression has long been associated with darkness and grey skies, but a new study suggests there might actually be a scientific basis for these cultural motifs. A new paper published in Biological Psychiatry suggests people who are clinically depressed have difficulty detecting the contrast between black and white...

Tebartz van Elst, head of the section for neuropsychiatry and deputy director of the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Germany's University of Freiburg... says the relationship between depression and poor black-and-white contrast perception might exist because receptive fields in the retina that are critical for perceiving contrast involve dopamine, one of the key neurotransmitters involved in depression. [He] says he and his team have discovered 'an objective marker of the subjective state of depression' which could have implications for diagnosis and treatment...

Dr. Mark Berber, a psychiatrist at Markham Stouffville Hospital, professor at Queen's University and lecturer at the University of Toronto, says his patients who struggle with depression often say things seem bleak; when they're well, they say the world has a more vibrant colour... 'When you're depressed, everything seems grey and black.'

This phenomenon has long been noted in literature. University of Toronto English profession Carroll says that before the rise of modern science, melancholy was attributed to 'black bile.' one of the four humours, believed to cast a shadow over the mind... This experience was noted by Winston Churchill, who called his depression 'the black dog.' In 1911, he wrote to his wife that his black dog had left him, at least for the time being. 'All the colours come back into the picture,' he wrote.
Image source here.