The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression

The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression

Written by Craig Rogers, Posted on , in Section Turn For The Better

Original book review appeared on Psych Central by Samantha Munoz on February 17, 2016

Alex Korb, PhD, has studied the brain for over a decade. He earned an undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Brown University and received his PhD. in neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles. He wrote his dissertation on depression and has published numerous scientific articles on depression.

Alex is currently a postdoctoral neuroscience researcher at UCLA in the department of psychiatry and is also a scientific consultant for several biotech companies. He has a wealth of experience in yoga and mindfulness, physical fitness, and even stand-up comedy.

The Upward Spiral

At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the word neuroscience popping out at me from The Upward Spiral’s front cover. I’ve never been science oriented, and reading how Alex Korb was going to be “using neuroscience to reverse the course of depression, one small change at a time” made me apprehensive. But then, a few pages in, my anxieties began to diminish — especially since the entire second chapter is dedicated to reducing worry.The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb, PhD

Korb, a neuroscientist who earned his doctorate at UCLA, flawlessly explains complex brain functions and neurotransmitters and their roles in depression. On top of his easy-to-understand analogies and personal stories, his light humor makes the book not just informative, but uplifting.

And up is where we want to go. As Korb puts it, “the big problem with the downward spiral of depression is it doesn’t just get you down, it keeps you down.” To explain what happens in a depressed person’s brain, Korb explores the research. Scientists don’t fully understand what depression is, he acknowledges, but they do know that it relates to neurotransmitters the brain produces and that it relates to different parts of the brain.

In particular, the prefrontal cortex, used for thinking, and the limbic system, used for feeling, are involved, as well as neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. (Don’t worry too much if you have no idea what I’m talking about: Korb has friendly illustrations of the brain to make the learning process much easier.)

Korb goes on to describe how anxiety and worry, negative thoughts, and bad habits can keep us in our downward spiral. A depressed brain has a bias toward negativity, bringing bad memories and self-criticism to light much more easily. Controlling bad habits, he explains, is all about putting our prefrontal cortex to use.

When we want to stop a habit, we use our prefrontal cortex to think about what we’re doing and use the neurotransmitter serotonin to inhibit impulses. Depression prevents the production of serotonin, making it harder to stop the habits.

To continue reading the review of "The Upward Spiral" by Samantha Munoz click "Next Page" below.

To continue reading Page 2 of this article, click on button below.

page 1view page 2