It’s important to seek treatment for depression. For one thing, it allows the individual to find much-needed relief and to function more easily in life. But a recent study reveals that depression treatment is important to protect the brain. It found that when long term depression goes untreated, unhealthy brain changes occur. 

The prestigious medical journal, The Lancet published a study in February of this year, exploring depression and microglia – a certain type of cell found in the brain. They make up about 10 to 15 percent of brain cells.  

The researchers had originally conducted studies on inflammation in the brain and depression. However, their most recent study went further and explored how this chronic inflammation affects the brain. 

For the study, researchers observed 80 participants. 25 individuals had untreated depression for 10 years or more. Another 25 had untreated depression for under 10 years. The remaining 30 individuals were never diagnosed with depression. 

Researchers discovered that the subjects who had untreated depression the longest, and therefore experienced chronic brain inflammation, had a significant buildup of a certain type of protein throughout the brain.

This protein was identified in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region responsible for executive functions, such as time management, reasoning, attention, focus, planning, organizing, memory, and more.

Therefore, when chronic depression is left untreated, brain inflammation can lead to potentially harmful changes in the brain. In fact, inflammation can reach neurodegenerative levels, similar to those found in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson patients.