Astrocytes and Depression

December 28, 2013

Astrocytes and Depression


by Sean M.


Yes, astrocytes, a term that very few of us are familiar with, but in due time many of us will be more aware of. Millions of people who experience consistent depression are in a constant venture to understand the why’s and the how’s in regard to its occurrence, and how to put an end to these terrible sluggish feelings that impact being productive, let alone happy. Well, astrocytes are apparently a very important thing to put into consideration according to some recent neuropsychology studies.

So, what are astrocytes? Astrocytes are star-shaped brain cells that cause a rapid improvement in mood in depressed ‘patients’ after acute sleep deprivation. Currently the majority of anti-depressant medications take weeks of time to kick in and begin to have a lasting-effect, whereas the sleep-deprivation technique kicks in almost immediately, but currently is not long lasting solution. With all the talk that is placed around depression and unhealthy sleep patterns it sure ties your brain in knots to question which path leads to results, and which path is downright ‘nutty’.


Sleep Deprivation Versus Normal Sleep


If you look up the term ‘sleep deprivation’ it’s actually defined as a form of ‘mental torture’, so it makes you wonder just how effective this technique can be when placed toward people who are already experiencing some tough mental conditions. According to scientists that placed medication that delivered the ‘sleep deprivation’ reaction, mice seemed to still sleep ‘normal’, but had decreased depressive-like symptoms, and increased levels of adenosine in the brain. These results were sustained for a period of 48 hours. So, what is adenosine? Adenosine is the chemical that controls the urge and need to sleep according to what the brain tells us.

Sleep has a lot to do with how we feel during the day, whether it is the impact it has on our motor functions, our mental clarity, or our overall productivity, it has an impact on each example. A healthy amount of sleep is associated with being able to be at our very best in all conditions of life. There is a large amount of thought that is based around the condition of sleep to and how changes in sleep patterns can help aid in curing depressive feelings. When it comes to something as sensitive as ‘sleep deprivation’ it makes you wonder how an idea viewed as ‘torture’ has ended up as an idea for depression release.

The discussion behind the idea of curing ‘insomnia’ as a means for defeating feelings associated with depression holds fair angles and relevance, but ‘sleep deprivation’ is the opposite side of things and I fail to see how a loss of sleep could actually help this condition.  The idea behind it I supposed is having just enough rest to allow the mind to be in a position of having full awareness and the ability to have maximum potential for productivity. I still can’t find a way of taking something that is defined as ‘torture’ and using it as a technique for a potential solution for a condition that is already delivering feelings of mental challenge.

When you consider depression you think about the impact it has on motor functions and thought processes and it all contributes toward a collection of ideas that lead to ‘sluggish’ behavior, decreased response time, lack of motivation, and other mentally challenging characteristics. The further deprivation of sleep, regardless of what scientific efforts are able to report, I can only view as a stab at something that could lead to worsening the problem in the long run. The emphasis put toward the fact that it is only a short-term cure only further confirms that the potential for it to do more harm than good. For the long-term view of things sleep deprivation can take a condition that is already on a very unstable level of mental psyche and turn it into an even worse situation.  When you tamper with sleep patterns it has a very sensitive effect on the most basic of bodily functions, in regard to mental stability. To take a body that is already suffering from a lack of motivation and energy and to deprive it further of something that helps replenish that, sleep, I fail to see the positive outcomes that are considered a ‘possibility’.

Image Credit: Jessia Hime @