For those interested, good, somewhat lengthy overview of our evolving understanding of depression and the use of psychotics (e.g., Prozac). Appears that the the effect in negligible for patients with moderate or mild depression, but substantial for patients with severe depression.
Confirming perhaps common sense and experience, a more enriched life can act as an antidepressant, a more stressed life as a depressant (some of our lives combine the two!), linked to cell growth in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that controls memories and is linked to the parts of the brain that regulate emotion. Concluding quote:
John Gribbin, a historian of science, once wrote that seminal scientific discoveries are inevitably preceded by technological inventions. The telescope, which situated the earth and the planets firmly in orbit around the sun, instigated a new direction in thinking for astronomy and physics. The microscope, taking optics in a different direction, ultimately resulted in the discovery of the cell.
We possess far fewer devices to look into the unknown cosmos of mood and emotion. We can only mix chemicals and spark electrical circuits and hope, indirectly, to understand the brain’s structure and function through their effects. In time, the insights generated by these new theories of depression will most likely lead to new antidepressants: chemicals that directly initiate nerve growth in the hippocampus or stimulate the subcallosal cingulate. These drugs may make Prozac and Paxil obsolete — but any new treatment will owe a deep intellectual debt to our thinking about serotonin in the brain. Our current antidepressants are thus best conceived not as medical breakthroughs but as technological breakthroughs. They are chemical tools that have allowed us early glimpses into our brains and into the biology of one of the most mysterious diseases known to humans.