Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
The theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance is often presented in the media as fact even though there is little scientific evidence to support it, according to a new study co-authored by a Florida State University visiting lecturer.
Jeffrey Lacasse, an FSU doctoral candidate and visiting lecturer in the College of Social Work, and Jonathan Leo, a neuroanatomy professor at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, found that reporters who included statements in news articles about depression being caused by a chemical imbalance, or a lack of serotonin in the brain, were unable to provide scientific evidence to support those statements.
Lacasse and Leo spent about a year in late 2006 and 2007 monitoring the daily news for articles that included statements about chemical imbalances and contacting the authors to request evidence that supported their statements. Several reporters, psychiatrists and a drug company responded to the researchers' requests, but Lacasse and Leo said they did not provide documentation that supported the chemical imbalance theory. Their findings were published in the journal Society.
"The media's presentation of the theory as fact is troublesome because it misrepresents the current status of the theory," Lacasse said. "For instance, there are few scientists who will rise to its defense, and some prominent psychiatrists publicly acknowledge that the serotonin hypothesis is more metaphor than fact. As the current study documents, when asked for evidence, reporters were unable to cite peer-reviewed primary articles in support of the theory."
Moreover, the researchers said, several of the responses received from reporters seem to suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of the theory's scientific status. The "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," which almost all psychiatrists use to diagnose and treat their patients, clearly states that the cause of depression and anxiety is unknown, according to Lacasse and Leo.
More here: http://www.fsu.com/pages/2008/03/03/depression.html
The Kathy Fountain show, a Tampa TV talk show, discusses chemical imbalance:
Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWE3UGl7KFk
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzDv6Cublaw
Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw0PxgTIT4k
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