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Science tackles mental health: Recent tools against anxiety and depression in a stressed world

Science tackles mental health: Recent tools against anxiety and depression in a stressed world

In a review published within the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers in america of America described the potential of scientific tools to combat mental health disorders, including anxiety, major depressive disorder (MDD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They explore the role of science, the physiology and kinds of stress, responsiveness, treatment approaches, and the present evidence.

​​​​​​​Review: The neurobiology of stress: Vulnerability, resilience, and major depression. ​​​​​​​Image Credit: Master1305 / Shutterstock


The worldwide surge in psychological stress, fueled by events just like the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, political instability, and climate change, has led to a concerning rise in mood and anxiety disorders. This surge is almost a “second pandemic,” profoundly impacting various demographics, especially younger individuals and females. It calls for practical scientific approaches and emphasizes the necessity for strategies to deal with this mental health crisis.

The short- and long-term role of science

To tackle the mental health crisis, it is crucial to own a deep scientific understanding of those disorders. Immediate actions may be taken globally, locally, in healthcare, and at the person level by prioritizing mental health, implementing supportive policies, raising awareness, and offering evidence-based lifestyle interventions. Key messages include the treatability of disorders, diverse paths to depression, and the importance of resilience. They pave the best way for further discovery that could possibly be translated into personalized scientific approaches to treatment and prevention.

Stress biology and stress responsiveness

Stress biology represents organism-environment interaction, enabling optimal coping and survival. Dysregulation within the highly conserved stress system can potentially result in mood and anxiety disorders.

Stress biology developed over a century, witnessing milestones from Walter Cannon’s acute stress focus to Hans Selye’s chronic stress exploration. The complex hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis emerged, involving key players like corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and glucocorticoid receptors, with implications in mood disorders. While the stimuli of stress could also be physical, metabolic, physiologic, or psychosocial, they converge on the HPA axis to trigger a typical physiologic response.

A healthy stress response is integral for adaptive coping, characterised by rapid ACTH and glucocorticoid elevation swiftly terminated through negative feedback, inducing neurobiological resilience. Nonetheless, chronic stress disrupts this balance, resulting in sustained physiological alterations, termed allostatic load, with severe consequences, including maladaptive neuroplasticity inhibition and increased vulnerability to mood disorders and other health issues.Top of Form

Psychosocial stress serves as a trigger and relapse catalyst for clinical depression, much like disorders of stress reactivity, mirroring immune disorders in responsiveness. Depression susceptibility or resilience is linked to emphasize reactivity, with temperamental traits and genetic variations contributing to individual differences. Temperamental tendencies, influenced by genetic and experiential aspects, determine susceptibility to internalizing or externalizing psychiatric disorders. Females have a significantly higher risk for anxiety disorders and depression, indicating distinct molecular pathology between the sexes. Experience, especially during childhood and adolescence, shapes depression susceptibility through epigenetic changes and neural remodeling.

Levels of study and the role of animal models

The brain integrates genetic, molecular, and cellular elements with neural circuitry to manage responses to stressors and adapt behavior. Stress biology, linked to mood and anxiety disorders, demands evaluation in any respect these levels, considering individual characteristics and environmental aspects. Animal models are crucial for understanding stress mechanisms, revealing genetic and experiential influences on susceptibility or resilience. Chronic social defeat stress in rodents exemplifies resilience and susceptibility, offering insights into stress-induced changes and adaptive mechanisms.

Treating depression

Classical antidepressants, initially serendipitous discoveries, led to the monoamine hypothesis, but their delayed efficacy raised doubts about an easy “serotonin imbalance.” Recent treatments like ketamine, targeting NMDA glutamate receptors, and nonpharmacological modalities promise rapid, resilience-associated neuroplasticity for depression.

Although the brand new treatments offer hope for treatment-resistant depression, it’s crucial to advance molecular discoveries, understand diverse causal aspects, and develop biomarkers for developing a precise approach against mood disorders.

Evidence in the problem

Toriano Parel et al.

The study investigates the connection between early-life stress and poorer antidepressant treatment outcomes, particularly in females.

Kenwood et al.

The article reviews research on the interplay of temperamental tendencies, stress reactivity, and susceptibility to affective disorders in a nonhuman primate model of behavioral inhibition.

Shimo et al.

The research investigates the connection between stress, adaptive immune responses, and their implications in depression via autoimmunity.

Penner-Goeke et al.

The study explores how genetic aspects interact with stress to influence the chance of psychiatric disorders, specializing in major depression.

Turner, Khalil et al.

The Michigan Freshman Study investigates the interplay of genetic and environmental aspects influencing vulnerability or resilience to life stress and the event of clinical depression or anxiety symptoms in young, healthy individuals.

Krystal et al.

The review covers classical depression treatment approaches, explores the monoamine hypothesis, and provides insights into novel treatments, shaping future research strategies.


In conclusion, the current review highlights the varied scientific approaches employed to check the biological and psychosocial mechanisms driving the current mental health crisis. The mix of interventions and precision-treatment insights discussed herein could aid a proactive response to the second pandemic.


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