More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Researchers Lift A Corner Of The Veil Of Depression
March 18, 2006
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology

About 1 in 10 Europeans has to contend with some form of depression during his or her life. But how people become depressed is still largely a mystery. With their recent research, scientists from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) connected to the University of Antwerp in collaboration with scientists of the University of Ume? in Sweden, are lifting a corner of the veil. Their studies indicate that the TPH2 protein is involved in the development of depression and manic depression.

Depression and manic depression
Depression is one of the most prevalent disorders in the Western world, and, according to the World Health Organization, it will even be the No. 1 disorder in 2020. Ten to 15 per cent of the population − from all levels of society − experience depression during their lifetime; and about 5% has to contend with manic depression. Despite the high socio-economic costs and mortality rate, the causes of these psychiatric disorders are not yet known. However, scientists are in agreement that the origin of depression can be attributed to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors such as stress.

The role of serotonin
The hormone serotonin plays an important role in our brain chemistry. The amount of serotonin in the brain has a large influence on our thinking, emotions and behavior. Because antidepressants affect the level of serotonin in the brain, it has long been suspected that serotonin plays a role in the development of psychiatric disorders. So, the amount of serotonin that you produce and keep under control appears to be crucial in the fight against (manic) depression. Because the TPH2 protein is instrumental in regulating the serotonin level, scientists suspect that TPH2 plays a role in the development of psychiatric disorders.

Genetic study
Ann Van Den Bogaert and her colleagues from the research group of Jurgen Del-Favero have also been studying the role of TPH2 in the development of depression and manic depression. They have conducted a genetic study in which they compared the variation in the TPH2 gene between patients with depression and healthy individuals. The DNA of two random individuals are 99.9% identical − the 0.1% that is different contains the genetic variation that can originate disorders.

In collaboration with the Swedish research group under the direction of Rolf Adolfsson and Karl-Fredrik Norrback, the researchers studied the DNA of hundreds of Swedish patients with depression and manic depression and that of healthy control subjects. By comparing the genetic variations between the patients and healthy individuals, they have shown that in this Swedish population TPH2 is involved in the development of depression and manic depression.

Thus, their research brings us a step closer to a better understanding of these psychiatric disorders.


Just did a search and found this one. Any update on this?

I have had mild depression all my life which I've put down to a dysfunctional childhood and an aspergers-aligned view on the world.

My 8 year old son, however, is bright, sporty, has an "ideal" lifestyle, friends etc but still seems to exhibit the same negative behaviour that I did at the same age. He has a charmed life - I really want him to enjoy it. But if he's "inherited" depression I also want to give him the skills to manage it.

Any ideas?

Daniel E.
If you wish, you may want to be more specific about the negative behavior your child is exhibiting. My parents sent me to a therapist when I was in the 7th grade because my shyness was becoming distressing to me.

(If a parent has a mental disorder, the odds of the child inheriting and later exhibiting a similar disorder are often lower than one would think. There's also the nature vs. nurture issue.)


Withdrawing, not handling criticism, "I'm the worst boy in the world", "that was the sucky-est day of my life". That's fine when he's done something naughty but it's usually over something trivial or a suggestion.

He has lots of friends but no really close buddies apart from the boy next door. He doesn't seem to really connect. Teachers love it because he gets on with everyone and they can pair him with anyone and he'll work happily but he can get lonely because he doesn't have the playdates, party invitations etc that other kids get. In team sports he's very competitive and has a strong sense of fairness and can't let go when there's a reffing error (we're talking about an 8 year old!!!).

Daniel E.
Regarding friendships, I found this:

The younger the children, the more on-again, off-again their friendships and group acceptance. But by ages 10-11, patterns of acceptance, friendship and psychological adjustment begin to gel.

...It is important for parents to play an active role, say Nangle and Erdley. Good friendships don't just happen. Studies show an association between parental involvement in arranging children's peer contacts, and the social and academic adjustment of preschoolers and kindergartners. Parents who arrange play dates, enroll their children in structured activities, and monitor peer interactions appear to have more socially adept kids.

Warning signs that children may be lacking close friends include being unable to name specific close friends (or naming kids not really their friends), lack of incoming calls or invitations from peers, hanging out with friends who are significantly older or younger, and lack of regular peer contacts outside of school.

Children's Friendships Lay Foundation for Adult Relationships

I don't know much at all about child psychology, but have you considered having your child evaluated by a child psychologist, just to be safe or as a way to get some tips?

That your son is feeling lonely at times makes me think that something can be done to help him out.

Regarding the party invitations, maybe he is getting some but throwing them out? That's what I used to do as a kid until my mother found one in the trash.
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