A neurochemical in the brain called "serotonin" makes us happy. Serotonin uses a "docking port" called the "5HT1A receptor." This "5HT1A
receptor" has not really changed over evolutionary time, in humans or in rats. Why not? Because depression is adaptive and results in fitter
individuals, say postdoctoral fellow Paul Andrews of Virginia Commonwealth University and psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson Jr. of the University of
Virginia in the journal Psychological Review
In evolution-speak, depression is an "adaptation," ...it evolved because it made individuals who experienced it fitter, under natural selection,
than individuals who did not experience it.
...a molecule in the brain called the 5HT1A receptor... serves as a docking port for the neurochemical serotonin... natural selection did not mess
with the receptor much. ...(because) tinkering with it evolutionarily would produce more harm than good.
How can depression be good? How can it make us "more fit"?
Because it changes our behavior in ways that allow us to focus exclusively on the problem at hand. Then it alters our thinking to be more focused,
deliberative and analytical - to "problem-solve" and change our reality.
...depression alters thinking and behavior in beneficial ways. For instance:
*People in the grip of depression tend to ruminate, to turn an issue over and over in the mind. ...this way of thinking, ...is "often highly
analytical." ...producing solutions to what tipped the person into depression in the first place, not to mention "Eureka!" moments such as
*Depression tends to focus thinking. That 5HT1A receptor, it turns out, also supplies neurons with fuel, allowing them to fire without flagging. That
includes neurons in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which have to fire continuously to keep the mind from wandering. (It's an attention
circuit.) Focused thinking, like analytical thinking, might help someone overcome depression.
*Depression tends to make sufferers seek isolation, and keeps them from deriving pleasure from sex, food, or life itself. ...it may also be adaptive:
these behaviors foster the kind of focused and deliberative thinking that might solve the problem that triggered the depression in the first place.
Depression is considered an illness, and therapies focus on "curing" depression to make people "happy" again. Antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft
and Paxil target serotonin, and bump its production in the brain.
But is it really a good idea to try and "cure" depression? If depression is adaptive, and so, a positive evolutionary force, then shouldn't doctors
try to encourage depressive thinking?
Andrews and Thompson think so.
"Therapies should try to encourage depressive rumination rather than try to stop it, and they should focus on trying to help people solve the
problems that trigger their bouts of depression,"...
More to the point:
...depression is present in the species, and in individuals, for a purpose, and we're playing with fire if we try to eradicate it.
What would happen if everyone stopped searching for "happiness at any cost by any means"? If everyone stopped self-medicating with painkillers,
alcohol and recreational drugs? If doctors stopped bowing to Big Pharma and prescribing happy pills?
Would people start thinking again? And problem solving? Might thinking people change the world?
What would happen if nobody's urine contained Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil or any other antidepressant, and our world's water wasn't medically polluted
any more, and our world's wildlife wasn't sucking up happy drugs along with us humans?
Would the animals get pissed? Fight back? Would there be a wildlife revolution? To preserve habitat? Quality of life? To end extinction?
...But depression really can lead to suicide and so, threatens life, not just quality of life. Is there a middle ground here? Is there merit to the
idea that depression is adaptive - a positive evolutionary trait?
NEWS SOURCE: The Upside of Feeling Down. Depression might be evolution's way of fixing what ails
Also see: Dream Subliminals