Understanding Depression through Neuroscience.

Have you ever wondered how depression affects the brain? Well today, I’ll tell you. According to the Introduction to Neuroscience class I took last semester, there are three main parts of the brain that play a significant role in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): the Hippocampus, Amygdala, and Prefrontal cortex. The brain, as a whole, plays a crucial role in survival. It is, after all, the command center for the nervous system; enabling thoughts, memory, movement, and emotions by a complex function that is considered the highest product of biological evolution. Maintaining a healthy brain during one’s life is the uppermost goal in pursuing health and longevity. I know what it’s like to be stressed and depressed… it’s the absolute worst! So that’s why today, we’ll be saying goodbye to depression and hello to a healthy, prosperous brain. Let’s start with the hippocampus – the memory center of the brain.


The hippocampus is located near the center of the brain. It stores memories and regulates the production of an important hormone called cortisol. The body releases cortisol during times of physical and mental stress, including during depression. Major problems can occur when excessive amounts of cortisol are sent to the brain due to a stressful event or a chemical imbalance in the body. In a healthy brain, brain cells (neurons) are produced throughout a person’s adult life in a part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus. In people with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), however, the long-term exposure to increased cortisol levels can slow the production of new neurons and cause the neurons in the hippocampus to shrink. This can lead to memory problems throughout life – something that can affect education, career and even relationships.


The amygdala is the part of the brain that facilitates emotional responses, such as pleasure and fear. In people with MDD, the amygdala becomes enlarged and more active as a result of constant exposure to high levels of cortisol. An enlarged and hyperactive amygdala, along with abnormal activity in other parts of the brain, can result in disturbances in sleep and activity patterns. It can also cause the body to release irregular amounts of hormones and other chemicals in the body, leading to further complications. This is why people with depression are often tired, irritated and sad. They have a chemical imbalance in their brain, as the amygdala is trying to process way too many emotions at once ~ hence releasing neurotransmitters that should be kept at bay or regulated. It’s vital to realize that exercise, what you eat, and how you spend your days is literally what impacts which hormones are released and which ones aren’t. This helps you conceptualize depression better, and take steps towards avoiding it.

Pre-Frontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex is located in the very front of the brain. It is responsible for regulating emotions, making decisions, and forming memories – even though the hippocampus is the main memory center. Studies have revealed that when the body produces an excess amount of cortisol (the stress hormone), the prefrontal cortex also appears to shrink. Normally, cortisol levels are highest in the morning and decrease at night. In people with MDD, however, cortisol levels are always elevated, even at night. This can not only keep you up at night and make you restless when you’re trying to get your beauty rest, it can also make you feel endlessly agitated and tired throughout the day because you’re not hitting REM sleep. P.s, Sleep is so important to human development, that I’ll have to dedicate an entire post to that alone. Stay tuned for that.

So, there you have it. A neuroscience POV of depression. I hope that breaking it down neurologically helps you understand Depression better, which will in turn help you combat it if you’re currently facing it, or avoid it if you’re currently in a good mental state. Remember, y’all, mental health is everything. If your brain isn’t functioning correctly, even if things are a LITTLE bit off, it can have severe adverse consequences on your lifestyle and overall health. HEALTH IS WEALTH, people. You can’t do anything with a billion dollars if you can’t even spend it because you’re so depressed that you can’t get out of bed! That’s a cold reality. Some people have all the money in the world, and no health to spend it. Life is a complicated cycle. One person might be depressed because they’re broke, the other might be depressed because they have so much money and no health to spend it with. Crazy, right? But depression is real. It’s not just “in your head”, and science has proven that. Therefore, take good care of yourself, be KIND to yourself, and know that you are a god/goddess with boundless opportunities and dreams.

I love y’all so much. Leave a like, share or comment if you enjoyed this post. Thank you!

With love,

Stacy Rahaka 🌹.

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