How often do we feel stressed with unwanted thoughts taking a toll on us? How often do they sway us into complete darkness and loneliness? And how often do we waste our productive days due to such unwanted thoughts? Such thoughts are a recurring to what the mind has been going through lately. Not only do they impact ones level of stress, they also tend to inhibit anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and Schizophrenia in us and which is quite dangerous when it comes to self-assessment. US have particularly been impacted much by these disorders, leading to a substantial growth in the death rates along all states. The figures are also troublesome as 25 million Americans suffer from anxiety related stress disorder each year which result into more than 100 taking their lives as well. Depression has been killing more people in US than Hearth related problems and or HIV/AIDS.
Well, the Scientists at University of Cambridge may have found a key chemical component within the ‘Memory’ region of the brain which can allow us to suppress such unwanted thoughts leading to depression. "Our ability to control our thoughts is fundamental to our wellbeing," explains Professor Michael Anderson from the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge. "When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms of psychiatric diseases: intrusive memories, images, hallucinations, ruminations, and pathological and persistent worries. These are all key symptoms of mental illnesses such as PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety."
The Prefrontal Cortex or simply put as the forefront of the brain plays a defining role in controlling our access to our thoughts and vehemently designs a pattern as per the thought charts. These cells function as master regulator, with abilities to control other brain region such as the Motor cortex and Hippocampus. Having access to these cortices mean an entire gateway for actions and memories, when we desire to have an access into the pre-ordial thoughts and images, these swell and open up to what we desire. During depression, these become more frequent.
The research by the scientists led by Dr Taylor Schmitz and Prof Anderson at the University of Cambridge used a task known as the ‘Think/No-Think’ Procedure to identify the brain processes which enables the prefrontal cortex to successfully inhibit our thoughts, memories and actions during the times of depression.
As per the task, the participants were asked to associate a series of words with a paired but rather uncannily different word such as North/Moss, Face/Change. In the next stage, the participants were then asked to remember the associated word if the cue is green or to suppress it if the cue is red.
Using a combination of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the researchers were able to observe what was happening within key regions of the brain as the participants tried to inhibit their thoughts. Spectroscopy enabled the researchers to measure brain chemistry, and not just brain activity, as is usually done in imaging studies.
Professor Anderson, Dr Schmitz and colleagues showed that the ability to inhibit unwanted thoughts relies on a neurotransmitter -- a chemical within the brain that allows messages to pass between nerve cells -- known as GABA. GABA is the main 'inhibitory' neurotransmitter in the brain, and its release by one nerve cell can suppress activity in other cells to which it is connected. Anderson and colleagues discovered that GABA concentrations within the hippocampus -- a key area of the brain involved in memory -- predict people's ability to block the retrieval process and prevent thoughts and memories from returning.From the Web