Research shows that the genetic switch, known as a transcription factor, represses the expression of multiple genes required for the formation of synaptic connections between brain cells, which in turn may contribute to cerebral mass loss in the
prefrontal cortex .
"We wanted to test the idea that stress causes a loss of synapses in the human brain," says lead author, Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry, neurobiology and pharmacology at Yale.Thus, the researcher continued, "we have shown
that the circuits normally involved in emotion and cognition, are interrupted when this transcription factor is activated".
The research team analyzed tissue donated by depressed and nondepressed patients, and sought different patterns of gene activation. The study found that the brains of patients who had been depressed exhibited lower levels of expression
of the genes required for the function and structure of brain synapses.