I suppose this post is a little off topic but it has been on my mind for a long time. Social defeat/Social stress as a model of depression is one of my favorite things to talk about these days. Not only am I am intrigued by the biological and psychological implications of this model and how it epitomizes similar dynamics in our society today. I have recently wondered if this model can be applied to people who have experienced long-term oppression. For example, slavery was a reality for at least 300 years in the United States and social stress was the reality. Even after slavery was abolished in 1865, Black people were still considered unequal in many ways. Biologically speaking, is it possible that being enslaved caused a downregulation of neurotropins (BDNF/VEGF/ etc.), CREB, and neurotransmitter/neurohomorones? I suppose no one will ever know, but let’s consider something for a second. In animal models of social stress/social defeat, rats can experience increases in heart rate and blood pressure, suppression of immune system function, higher body mass and higher glucose levels (still somewhat debatable.) Now, let’s look at some statistics. I often have doubts about statistics, but I think they highlight a problem that is worth looking at. African-Americans (most are descendants of slaves) are 1.5 times more likely to have high blood pressure compared to non-Hispanic Whites. African-American women are 1.7 times more likely to be obese compared to non-Hispanic White women. African-Americans are 2.2 times more likely to die from diabetes compared to non-Hispanic Whites.
Most people study the physiological changes in “defeated” animals, but what about the “winners?” There are a few studies on animals that are in the “winning” position. In fact, they show higher heart rate/blood pressure levels. So, is it “stressful” to maintain a dominant/wining position?
In terms of depression, you saw the figure that Duy and I talked about last week. Asians and Hispanics had higher depression symptoms. Blacks were in between Asians/Hispanics and Whites.
So what do you think? Is it an interesting story?
I got my statistics from this website:
This idea is very intriguing but it is also off topic. Please forgive me! While doing the behavioral part of my senior project/thesis (whatever you want to call it), I had to put all of my rats in cage to induce social stress. Most of them are pretty hungry, but not starving. Anyway, I decided to give them a small piece of rat chow to see how they would react. To my surprise, the rats were a little over the top. They would climb over each other, bite, fight, squeal, and do all sorts of things to get to the food. Then I started thinking. Why is this scenario so familiar? The rats started to fight each other because they wanted to get a resource! It reminds me of housing developments in bad neighborhoods. I will admit that I grew up in a housing project and Black people were the dominant group. So, what happens when you take humans and overcrowd them in a small space with limited resources?
Think about it.