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Research clarifies impact of Social Stress leading to depression

Imagine the situation when you have to undergo an embarrassing situation and you fear on the prospect of a mock by your friends. Now another situation happens when these mockery go louder and become daily chorus, you start to avoid people and change the timings all together. What if these thoughts get impounded into you and you start to mock yourself. This is one form of Social stress that the modern day generation quite often face. The social stress factor can bring out changes in the brain that might impact indecisively on your mind. Such stretched social stress can feel like bullying your blood-brain barriers leading to inflammation into brain and mood altercation. There is no apt definition of social stress but anything which can threaten your sense of worth is a type of social stress – be it bullying, body-image issues, social anxiety or extreme shyness.

The Experiment

To check the impact of social stress on the mood and reaction leading to depression, Scott Russo of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York set out on a research path. His team exposed 24 small or subservient mice to larger and dominant mice for 10 minutes every day for 10 days. The result was shocking. 10 of the mice coped pretty well within the set up but the rest of the small mice started becoming socially withdrawing and timid.

Comparing the blood, DNA and the tissue samples from the stressed small mice, nine control mice and mice that were okay with the status quo suggest three stages of social stress lead to an altered mood. First the stress starts inflammation in the blood stream and obstructs their flow to brain leading to a weakened blood-brain barrier making it leaky and more likely to let substance through into the brain. These developments then enable larger molecules like interleukin-6 and aggressive white blood cells called monocytes to pass into the brain. Inside the brain, they disrupt the signalling in the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain that helps evaluate threats and rewards.

The revelations in the study are enough to prove the impact of society we live in the functioning of our brain cells and tissues. The society is the stretch of human existence and based on it, our designing of mental health takes place.

As per Michael Berk of the University of Melbourne in Australia, “The study cements the central role of inflammation in the genesis of mood disorders. It also explains critical element of the puzzle – the mechanisms whereby stress can influence the brain via inflammation.” As per Russo, the chief protagonist, the research was done to found out the impact of inflammation caused due to Social stress leading towards depression and the methods to check them as soon as possible. One possible option to treat it can be the use of an antibody called Sirikumab to remove the Interleukin-6 from blood, which will then not reach to brain.

What is Sirikumab antibody?

Sirikumab is a human monoclonal antibody which is often used for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. The major argument for its use is that it impacts the flow of Interleukin-6 which in turns sanitizes brain from outside impacts. The drug is currently under phase II clinical trials for the use against depression. In the month of September, Sirikumab drug for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis was not allowed by FDA which demanded more data on the issue.

Whether or not the drug gets final approval from FDA is a policy related matter, what is worrying is the increased number of cases in the US schools in the last decade. The fact that the invention of social media has multiplied the social stress factor specially in the kids and teens. 

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