Nautilus

Why Making Our Brains Noisier Feels Good

Not since World War II has there been as great a threat to mental health as the current COVID-19 pandemic, according to Aiden James. The challenges to our mental health won’t “stop when the virus is under control and there are few people in hospital,” the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the United Kingdom told The Guardian recently. “You’ve got to fund the long-term consequences.” With depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in the United States, and likely elsewhere, at record highs, that should not come as a surprise. At least antidepressants can be counted on to ameliorate some of the damage, right? Well, maybe not. Experts disagree strongly about how well our medications are helping. In 2018, New Scientist ran an article called “Nobody Can Agree About Antidepressants.”1

So what do we do? A theory of brain function, particularly involving serotonin, recently proposed by neuroscientists Robin Carhart-Harris and David Nutt, at Imperial College The use of antidepressants has inadvertently left many of us less able to feel empathy toward others, laugh, cry, dream, and enjoy life just when we need those things the most: in the middle of a global pandemic.

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