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Serotonin and Depression

kkollins at pop3.concentric.net kkollins at pop3.concentric.net
Mon Oct 12 21:33:32 EST 1998

[John, please forgive my "editorializing", here. The topic of "depression", and
the way folks have approached it, is one that evokes great sorrow within me.]

The community of researchers has missed one thing: what's referred to as
"depression" is not, per se, "pathological". Rather it's an
evolutionarily-engineered-in, and absolutely-necessary, mechanism that becomes
activated when a person "blunders" a bit, and has the effect of quieting
behavior so that the person will not be experienced by others as a source of
"agitation"... which would lead to "escalating" group-behavioral conflict,
injury or death.

We =need= "depression", and the modern trend that takes the stand, that it
should be engineered-out of the nervous system, has more to do with the
profit-seeking of the pharmaceutacal companies than science or the welfare of

With respect to serotonin (or any other neural or hormonal signalling
substance), the necessary view is one that's somewhat analogous to a servo
mechanism in a mechanical device. That is, the functionality of the whole device
always transcends the contribution of this or that component. This is not to
"demean" the importance of the component. Using an automobile engine as an
allegory, for instance, the failure of a connecting rod causes the whole engine
to fail. But in the nervous system, everything is redundantly-engineered, and
the "components" are organized in relatively-failsafe ways. This doesn't mean
that any particular neurotransmitter is "unimportant". It just means that there
are [reiterating what someone else has already said in this thread] many factors
which determine the contribution of any neurotransmitter. And the only way to
get a handle on such is to work with the system as a whole. For instance, what's
referred to as "depression" can be instigated in as many ways as there are
behaviors. Such is the plight of the children of ghetto environments, which has
ramifications through generations of offspring. It's a serotonin deficit that's
transmitted genetically, but, rather, the continually-dibilitating quality of
the environment which always answers any behavior with, "No", behaviors being
acquired in the face of such, and handed down inter-generationally via learning.
Even though the contribution of serotonin is always in-there, the simple
modification of serotonin concentration cannot do anything that can "optimize"
the functioning of the system as a whole.

This is not to say that folks are not trying to do "just" that. In the US, it's
become the "fashion" to "lift one's self up" through recourse to
"antidepressant" drugs. I've not come across any study that measures the
effacacy of groups who do so compared to groups who do not, but it's a safe
prediction that, given equivalent environments (socioeconomic, educational,
etc.) the overall performance (problem-solving, initiative, social concern,
etc.) of the latter group will significantly exceed that of the former. The
nervous system is an awesomely-integrated mechanism. Treating it like a child's
chemistry experiment, which is what "isolating" upon a particular molecular
dynamic entails, can only decrease its capabilities. ken

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