Even if you’ve never suffered from depression in your own life, you probably know one person who has struggled with this increasingly common mental disorder. Unfortunately for depression patients, this disease is often unjustly stigmatized in our highly competitive society. However, a few new brain scans of depression patients in the UK and in China are changing how many think of depression. These scans of the brain show beyond the shadow of a doubt that depression is a real disease that affects the physical structure of the brain.

Professors at the University of Warwick in the city of Coventry, UK, and psychologists from Fudan University, which is near Shanghai, took a look at brain scans from clinically depressed patients and normally functioning human beings. They discovered that people with depression have a severe problem with their lateral orbitofrontal cortex, which is a part of the prefrontal cortex. The lateral orbitofrontal cortex is only activated when we are suffering greatly or when we don’t receive rewards that we were expecting. Scientists believe that people who have depression have greater difficulty interpreting, appreciating, and receiving rewards than other people. They hope their research will help psychologists and psychiatrists discover new treatment options for depression very soon.

Not only does this information help mental health professionals, it also helps people with this disease sympathize with what a depressed person must be experiencing every day. The researchers on this study noted that depression is a major health problem in many industrialized countries. They estimate that one in ten people experience this terrible disease at some point in their lives. Indeed, the disease is so prevalent in the UK that Prozac deposits were found in London’s tap water. Hopefully this new finding will help us all tame what Winston Churchill referred to as the “black dog” of depression.