The brain region for stress control, larger in people with depression

on 30 September 2018
Removing the tears

While an important discovery about the size of the hypothalamus of people with depression it is unclear whether depression makes it larger or a larger hypothalamus increases your odds of having depression . . . 

It seems logical, especially since the good stuff rarely kills you!

The hypothalamus plays a key role in initiating the stress response but it doesn't work alone. There are several other areas of the cortical and subcortical brain involved and one particular part that is often involved in stressful, threatening or dangerous situations is the amygdala. But even that doesn't work alone close by there is the PAG (periaqueductal grey) BNST (bed nucleus of stria terminalis) and Nucleus Accumbens. As if that wasn't enough, areas of the brains stem (below) and prefrontal cortex (PFC) and orbitofrontal cortex (above) are also involved. One of the roles of a part of the PFC is to regulate the amygdala and its neighbours, it evaluates threat potential and in a sense tries to keep us on the straight and narrow. Stress hormones impair the function of this part of the brain, I guess it senses that now is not the time for thinking, it's time to fight or run.

People who are suffering from depression will always have higher levels of anxiety (the anticipation of danger) or distress. The brain as a whole is just not functioning as it should, their view of the world is distorted and life just doesn't feel right or good. In some sense they create more of the same, it's as if they're on an unmerry-go-round, life loses its purpose and hope seems too far away to reach. 

However, hypnotherapy can help to rebalance brain function, life begins to feel more worthwhile, slowly good feelings begin to replace bad, the monochrome world starts to have a little more colour, our sense of smell gets richer and, often food tastes better. This makes sense because the brain's homeostasis slowly returns to normal (from a state of hyperarousal), the threat level is reduced and our senses begin to relax. For people with severe depression, often being on medication can be beneficial as it does help to dumb down the stress response and make them calmer. This, in my experience, really can help hypnosis be effective more quickly. In some sense it's as if their world is covered by a thick cloud and hypnosis helps to lift this cloud and let the sunshine in again. A little like the transition from winter to spring to summer. Jim Rohn, Anthony Robbins mentor, described these dark times in our life, as the "winter of life!" So apt a description and that essentially makes hypnosis the creator of the summers of life.

Hypnosis works by putting the brain into slower brainwave activity (theta) which are related to sleep states and these play a crucial role in how our life plays out. Sleep is where our memories are consolidated and can be reconsolidated, the brain repairs itself and the body. In that sense, hypnosis is like the keyboard (the hypnotists' voice) that rewrites the brains language (the mind) and allows life to begin to function more normally. While it is never an instant fix, it very often happens quite quickly, over the course of a few weeks and the changes are often incremental, providing and encouraging impetus for continuing the treatment.

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of dysregulation of the neurotransmission in and across the brain. Stress and anxiety, which are almost always present, may play a developing role in the progression of depression. So it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious mind's role in perpetuating this condition. If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better,  then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life!

The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 322 million people worldwide were affected by depression in 2015 -- 4.4 per cent of the world's population. In the search for the underlying causes of this widespread disorder, researchers have concluded that it could arise from predisposition combined with an individual's environmental stress factors.

So far, it is known that people more predisposed to depression show a dysregulation of the endogenous stress response system, otherwise known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), which is normally triggered when we are faced with a stressful situation. This response increases the amount of cortisol, providing the body with more energy when faced with a potential threat or challenge. Once the challenging situation has passed, several control mechanisms in the HPA axis normally ensure the system returns to a balanced state.

In people who suffer from a depressive disorder or who are more predisposed, this is not the case. Instead, a malfunction of the feedback mechanism results in a stress response operating at full throttle, even when there is no apparent stressful situation. Until now, the underlying reason for this hyperactive stress response system and the role of the hypothalamus as its overall control unit has remained unclear.

In a recent study with 84 participants, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig and the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University Clinic in Leipzig have revealed that in people with an affective disorder, the left hypothalamus was on average five per cent larger than that of their healthy counterparts. 'We observed that this brain region is enlarged in people with depression as well as in those with bipolar disorder, two types of affective disorders, says Stephanie Schindler, a PhD student at both research institutes involved in the study and first author of the underlying publication just published in the scientific journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. Furthermore, in one of the groups of participants with depression, it was also revealed that the more severe the depression, the larger the hypothalamus was. Medication did not have any effect on the size of the hypothalamus.

These relations were found out using a high-resolution 7-Tesla MRI scanner. The severity of disorders was measured using standardised questionnaires and interviews.

Although studies have shown this brain structure to be more active in people with depression or bipolar disorder, it is not yet known what role a larger hypothalamus plays. 'Higher activity could lead to structural changes and thus to a larger volume of the hypothalamus normally the size of a one-cent coin', says Stefan Geyer, one of the study's principal investigators and head of the research group Anatomical Analysis of the Organization of the Human and Non-Human Primate Brain at MPI CBS.

Story Source:

Materials provided by the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain SciencesNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. S. Schindler, L. Schmidt, M. Stroske, M. Storch, A. Anwander, R. Trampel, M. Strauß, U. Hegerl, S. Geyer, P. Schönknecht. Hypothalamus enlargement in mood disordersActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/acps.12958

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. "In depression, the brain region for stress control is larger." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2018. <>.