Sophomore Seminars

Neurobiology of Depression: Why Depression Is a Disorder of the Brain and How Brain Stimulation May Treat It


The course is a basic review of how we define depression, and a description of a new 'systems model' to understand the neurobiology of depression. We will consider the model in the context of the illness and why brain stimulation treatments work.

The class will be organized as a working group. Initially, I will lead by discussing depression as a clinical entity, as well as common treatment approaches. I will then discuss a framework to understand the systems model, how we can do research in the scientific literature, and from that create a more detailed map of the neurobiological basis of depression.

As the quarter progresses, the emphasis will be on the students: to ask questions relevant to the illness and neurobiology; to do in class searches of the Pubmed database; to integrate what we have found into the general systems model; and to discuss how the literature confirms, informs, or contradicts our basic model.

Students will work in small groups to develop slides that summarize their findings from the literature. As we develop a context to understand the neurobiology of depression, we will consider how brain stimulation can be an effective treatment.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Hugh Brent Solvason PhD MD

"I'm a clinician scientist. It's stunning how our knowledge of brain function and dysfunction in major psychiatric disorders has exponentially expanded over the last decade. Yet the culture of psychiatrists and the lay public are largely unaware of these advances in the understanding of the neurobiology of depression.

"I think this course will be interesting and be accessible for undergraduates even without any prior neuroscience background. What I will present in the class I tell my patients in the clinic. It helps my patients understand the nature of their illness, treatment approaches and why depression is truly a 'brain disorder'."