Leticia de las Heras Red
Pamplona (EFE).- The neurobiologist Alon Chen, president of the prestigious Weizmann Institute in Israel, has warned in an interview with EFE that antidepressants present a problem not because of excessive treatment, but because they are “misused” . He has also ensured that psychological therapies can be just as effective as drugs.
He has done so in an interview given on the occasion of his visit to Pamplona. The purpose was the signing of a cancer research agreement between the Weizmann and the Applied Medical Research Center of the University of Navarra.
P: Is there a problem of antidepressant abuse?
P: There is a problem with antidepressants but not so much because of abuse but because of misuse and that we lack information. When treatment with an antidepressant is started, the effect takes a long time to manifest itself, you have to wait weeks to see if it has worked and around half of the cases it does not work and you have to try another.
In addition, they are treatments that have side effects that are especially problematic in children and can even show a predisposition to suicide.
The importance of sleep
Q: Is sleep important for good mental health?
A: Sleep is very important, as is sports or social activity and a life rich in relationships and hobbies. Another very important element is psychotherapy, there are studies that show that its effectiveness is equivalent to pharmacological treatments and in children it has been seen that the combination of both improves the results.
A vicious circle can be generated because the treatments are not adequate, the depressed person cannot get out of there, they are not motivated to have good habits and that must be broken. The way to do that is to find better treatments, something that ultimately depends on our understanding of how the brain works.
Q: Is the brain the last undiscovered frontier of the human body?
A: Totally, the knowledge we have of brain diseases is 20 years behind the knowledge we have, for example, of cancer.
Q: Can stress be a trigger for non-mental illnesses?
A: We all have our own genetic base that makes us more or less susceptible to certain diseases, but that is not really the final determinant, but the environment and our lifestyle and stress is a fundamental element.
There are diseases in which its participation is evident, such as mental illness, but also in diseases such as cancer, studies show that there is an association, although we are still not able to fully understand the mechanisms through which this association persists.
The role of genetics
Q: What is the epigenome and how can it influence our health?
A: The way in which the environment affects the genetic component is through epigenetic modifications, our genes are like a programming code and epigenetics is what determines how that code is transcribed, small annotations that are made on that information and that do not manifest until a specific moment in life.
Q: Can the stress of a mother affect her child during pregnancy?
A: A very important part in which we are especially vulnerable to changes is embryonic development, when we are still in the mother’s womb.
It is known that stress from the mother is transmitted in epigenetic changes in the genes of the child. They remain marked there and do not manifest themselves, but when that child grows up, at a specific moment, it may have a response marked by that epigenetic change or that the disease that it develops due to environmental exposure is marked by the stress suffered by the mother during its embryonic development.
Artificial intelligence, a tool to improve diagnosis
Q: How important is artificial intelligence in disease research?
A: We are dealing with genetic contexts, with an environment that affects the genome and an additional factor that is time, which makes them tremendously complex systems that the human mind cannot encompass on its own, there will undoubtedly be a essential element.
It can provide us with an improvement in the diagnosis of diseases, in the classification of the disease once diagnosed and in the development of new treatments.
A very specific example where it has an application is in the diagnosis of mental illnesses because, just like cancer, you can diagnose it relatively easily because you have some markers in mental illnesses, these markers do not exist, we rely on more qualitative questionnaires and an AI can reach generate objective tests for accurate diagnosis. EFE