A couple of articles caught my eye over the last couple of days. The first one, http://mic.com/articles/104096/there-s-a-suicide-epidemic-in-utah-and-one-neuroscientist-thinks-he-knows-why?utm_source=Mic+Check&utm_campaign=02a28d3a4c-Mic_Report_11_17_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_51f2320b33-02a28d3a4c-285454177&mc_cid=02a28d3a4c&mc_eid=9a4e021687, looks at the correlation of living at high altitude and increased rate of suicide. This particular researcher seems to think that it all comes down to changes in the metabolism of the neurotransmitter, serotonin.
I would counter that this is an oversimplification of a complex issue. It like saying cancer has a single cause when the evidence is quite well established that most cancers are caused by a complex interaction between the individual’s genome and environmental influences.
So while high altitude needs to be examined as a risk factor for committing suicide, other contributing factors must be examined. We already know that high altitude results in a change in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the human body. This, in turn, changes the acid/base balance or pH of the body. Since many physiological processes are dependent on a narrow range of pH, it affects how the body operates and the person feels. Altitude sickness is a well known short to medium term manifestation of this. Might mood alterations be another?
The last few paragraphs of the article mention other possible causative factors to the suicide problem in Utah. Certainly these are important when assessing the situation and at risk individuals.
The other article, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature13976.html, discusses the protein, beta-catenin, which seems to act as a factor in depression, anxiety, and resiliency of emotions. Once again, I think it would be short-sighted to think that some sort of beta-catenin therapy would solve the problems caused by anxiety or depression.
EEG neurofeedback is agnostic to these issues. It works by appealing to better function of brain systems by guiding the electrical activity of the brain. While it is true that a brain under extreme duress from physiological or environmental insults would have difficulties responding to neurofeedback, it has great utility for most cases of depression. Neurofeedback conveys an ability to treat something as complex as depression without having to know all the details of how that depression has come about.
It would be lovely if we could identify all the potential causes of depression and fix them. Until then we have the potentially powerful tool of EEG neurofeedback.