Nature, nurture and mood disorders

Almost four decades ago University of Aberdeen scientist Dr Hans Kosterlitz made a major breakthrough with his finding that the brain produces morphine-like chemicals that help us feel pleasure and fight pain.

To mark his enkephalins discovery - which won acclaim throughout the world - the University launched an annual lecture series in the name of the late, great neurobiologist.

The fourth Hans Kosterlitz lecture will be delivered this Wednesday (June 15) by Professor Peter McGuffin, a psychiatric geneticist and Director of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London.

Professor McGuffin is widely acknowledged to have done more than anybody else to understand the genetics of depression.

Depression will affect nearly 25% of us at some point in our lives and its incidence is growing.

Professor McGuffin has shown that, although environment and nurture play an important role in depression, the biggest susceptibility factor is genetic. If your parents or siblings have suffered depression then you are also much more likely to be depressed.

Professor McGuffin is actively involved in understanding why some people do not respond to antidepressant treatment.

Dr Alasdair MacKenzie, a Reader in Neuroscience at the University of Aberdeen, invited Professor McGuffin to give his talk.

He said: "I am delighted that Professor Peter McGuffin, who is an extremely eminent scientist, and an important collaborator in our research, has agreed to give the fourth Kosterlitz lecture. 

“Depression used to be a poorly understood condition which stigmatised many suffers. As a result most depressed people had to suffer in silence and were never properly diagnosed or treated.

“However, thanks to efforts by scientists such as Peter, the stigma of depression has gradually lifted and more effective treatments for mood disorders such as depression are now closer than ever before.”

The Hans Kosterlitz Lecture will take place in the Institute of Medical Science's Level 7 Conference Room at 4pm on Wednesday and is open to all staff and students.