Depression a part of 'learned helplessness'

April 18, 2013 at 8:59 PM   |   Comments

WURZBURG, Germany, April 18 (UPI) -- Faced with circumstances beyond their control, animals including humans often hunker down and develop physical symptoms of depression, German researchers say.

Martin Heisenberg of the Rudolf Virchow Center in Wurzburg, Germany, says the findings are a step toward understanding the biological basis for depression and present a new way for testing antidepressant drugs.

"Depressions are so devastating because they go back to such a basic property of behavior," Heisenberg said in a statement.

Heisenberg says the idea for the study came out of a lengthy discussion with a colleague about how to ask whether flies can feel fear. Franco Bertolucci, a study co-author, found flies can rapidly learn to suppress innate behaviors, a phenomenon that is part of learned helplessness.

The researchers say when flies experience uncomfortable levels of heat they will try to escape it, but if they can't they will stop responding, walking more slowly and taking longer and more frequent rests, as if they were "depressed."

Heisenberg's team says it intends to explore other questions including how long the flies' depression-like state lasts, how it affects other behaviors such as courtship and aggression, and what is happening in their brains.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Recommended UPI Stories
Featured UPI Collection
2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]

2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]

Most Popular
Police search for California man with drug-resistant TB
New research explains insomnia prevalence among elderly
New data shows Melbourne is most well-rested city in the world
New research details rare cancer that killed Bob Marley
Daughters more likely than sons to care for elder parents
Trending News