Keynote Lecture

Prof. Christian Otte
Charité University Hospital Berlin

Neurobiological stress-systems and major depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a debilitating disease characterized by depressed mood, diminished interests, impaired cognitive function and vegetative symptoms such as disturbed sleep or appetite. In addition, MDD is associated with an increased risk of developing medical disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, thereby further increasing its burden of disease
The etiology of MDD is multifactorial and its heritability is estimated to be around 35%. In addition, environmental factors such as early life stress (for example sexual and physical abuse during childhood) are strongly associated with the risk of developing MDD.
Despite advances in our understanding of the neurobiology of MDD, there is currently no established mechanism that explains all aspects of the disease. However, MDD is associated with alterations in the major neurobiological stress-responsive systems including the endocrine hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the autonomic nervous system, and the immune system.
This talk will provide an overview on the mechanisms by which early life stress and stressful life events later in life might not only increase the risk for MDD but for other medical diseases as well.