Sisters and Your Shrinking Brain

Ah yes, it seems as though the depression topic never escapes me. In class today, we talked about how the left hippocampus atrophies in individuals with depression (and PTSD). Later on, I came across this article on how there is a correlation between having a sister and being less likely to report feelings such as “I am unhappy” and “I feel like no one loves me.”

In this article, Deborah Tannen (a professor in linguistics), suggests that people with sisters talk to them more often than people speak to their brothers, and that this is a mechanism that buffers against depression. Furthermore, she suggests that the content of the conversation is not as critical in comparison to the very fact the siblings are engaging in conversation with their sister – even if it’s about a new sweater recently purchased.

This makes me wonder about activity in the hippocampus; does hippocampal activity play a role as a factor in decreased hippocampal size? Undeniably, talking involves activating memories and thus using the hippocampus – for at least one of its many functions. Additionally, there is the added importance that talking with a sister implies that she cares about you, and there is no doubt that it is important for people to feel cared for.

As scientists search for ways to alleviate and prevent depression, this is an interesting finding to keep in mind. Apparently, social environment can have a significantly strong impact. My brother is so lucky to have me.

One thought on “Sisters and Your Shrinking Brain

  1. Good thing I have 3 sisters! This also reminds me of Amy’s comment during the Stress class that the military actively recruits people who have very supportive families. Social environment does seem important, but I wonder to what extent it can mitigate our bodies’ physiological responses to stress?


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