So much for the body-brain duality. Researchers in the new PNAS claim that the sympathetic nervous system in depressed rodents causes a loss of bone mass. Treatment with anti-depressants rescues the situation.
These results define a linkage among depression, excessive adrenergic activity, and reduced bone formation, thus demonstrating an interaction among behavioral responses, the brain, and the skeleton, which leads to impaired bone structure. Together with the common occurrence of depression and bone loss in the aging population, the present data implicate depression as a potential major risk factor for osteoporosis and the associated increase in fracture incidence.
On the one hand, this research isn’t so surprising: rodents get depressed when they are stressed, and chronic stress messes with just about every aspect of our mind and body. Will Saletan summed up the research with his usual wit:
Old theory: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. New theory: Words may break your bones.