Beat stress with a pill

If you have a headache you take a pill, and now scientists believe we could do the same when we start to feel stressed

A pill that keeps stress at bay could be just around the corner after scientists at Leicester University distinguished the brain chemistry that turns a healthy dose of anxiety into overwhelming depression.

The breakthrough followed an observation that, while many of us suffer traumatic events from bereavements to broken hearts, only some descend into depression. This could lead to the invention of pills that quash stress-related conditions before a person’s health deteriorates.

About one in five people experience some form of anxiety disorder during their life, says Dr Pawlak. ‘Our discovery opens up new possibilities for the prevention and treatment of stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder.’

The experiments detailed in the journal Nature flagged up a protein called neuropsin, made in the brain’s fear centre. Blocking the protein in mice stopped them displaying anxiety in stressful situations. Researchers are optimistic that the protein works in a similar way in human brains.

‘We conclude that the activity of neuropsin and its partners may determine vulnerability to stress,’ say Dr Pawlak. Although more research needs to be undertaken, the findings open doors to possible cures for depression and anxiety disorders.

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