It’s a thunderclap in the middle of psychiatry. A new study published Wednesday in the journal Molecular Psychiatry questions the link between depression and low serotonin levels in the brain, reports New Scientist.
Based on an analysis of 17 studies on the subject, the researchers challenged this theory, which has been widely accepted in the scientific and medical community since the 1960s. Never again has the link between depression and chemical imbalance in the brain , whose lack of serotonin, had not been questioned, note Slate.
Much skepticism among psychiatrists
According to English psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff, who led the study, her team found no evidence that a low level of serotonin in the brain causes depression in the patient. This questions the use of antidepressants, especially those in the SSRI category, one of whose effects is precisely to increase serotonin levels.
“The conclusion of our article is that we do not know what SSRI antidepressants are used for”, summarizes the researcher. “One possibility is that they work through a placebo effect. The study, however, was met with suspicion by the scientific community, believing that its framework was unreliable.
Several types of depression
The study in question, for example, does not distinguish between patients suffering from chronic depression and those suffering from depressive episodes. Canadian neuroscientist Paul Albert, however, agrees that serotonin “is probably only one of the factors” causing depression.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists, for its part, settled the question by arguing that “the effectiveness of antidepressants varies between people and the reasons for this are complex”. All the experts and psychiatrists have in any case encouraged patients not to interrupt their treatment on the sole basis of this controversial study.