TED- Ed: The Genetics of Depression- Deon

For our TALONS 9 science final, instead of doing a TED talk I’ve decided to make a TED- Ed animation. I did say that my In-Depth wasn’t going to over right? The main difference between a TED -Ed original and a TED Talk is that TED-Ed is usually shorter, more informative and visual-based, while a TED Talk is usually longer, slower, and idea-based. Both are equally amazing. Here’s a link to both of their websites, I highly encourage you to check out both of them:



Here’s my TED -Ed lesson on the genetics of depression, I apologize for the poor voice recording and pronunciations, I’ve already started animating when I noticed the mistakes.



Since I usually binge watch TED talks and TED-Ed a lot, this project was very exciting for me. And since I just finished my In-Depth project on animations, what could be better to combine those two together? TED-Ed was one of the reasons that I chose animations for my In-Depth and every lesson they do is worth sharing. I was very inspired by the style and colour choice of one TED-Ed lesson in particular on depression. In that lesson it said that genetics may be related to depression, so that kind of got me into choosing this topic.I’ve decided to use the same style as that animation as well as the black dog representing depression because I really like that art style. Here is the link to the original TED- Ed that I based my animation off of. It’s also because I was in a rush to finish this animation in three weeks so I used two colours instead of multi-colours for this animation.

I hope you enjoyed this imitation TED-Ed, because I certainly did!

Thank you very much.



“Serotonin Transporter.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 7 May 2017. Web. 17 June 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin_transporter>.
Levinson, Douglas F., and Walter E. Nichols. “Major Depression and Genetics.” GenRED – Major Depression and Genetics – Genetics of Brain Function – Stanford University School of Medicine. Stanford Medicine, n.d. Web. 17 June 2017. <http://depressiongenetics.stanford.edu/mddandgenes.html>.


AsapTHOUGHT, Greg Brown, and Mitchell Moffit. “Do Dogs Get Depressed?” YouTube. YouTube, 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 17 June 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhTpxhWMCUA&index=60&list=PLdQSPPsYmHk6wA8RIKZ-WoHMCYPbDn78O>.
Brachman, Rebecca. “Could a Drug Prevent Depression and PTSD?” Rebecca Brachman: Could a Drug Prevent Depression and PTSD? | TED Talk | TED.com. TED, Sept. 2016. Web. 17 June 2017. <https://www.ted.com/talks/rebecca_brachman_could_a_drug_prevent_depression_and_ptsd>.
Farrel, Helen M. “What Is Depression? – Helen M. Farrell.” TED-Ed. TED-Ed15, 15 Dec. 2015. Web. 17 June 2017. <http://ed.ted.com/lessons/what-is-depression-helen-m-farrell#digdeeper>.


Andrews, Paul W., and Paul J. Watson. “Toward a Revised Evolutionary Adaptationist Analysis of Depression: The Social Navigation Hypothesis.” Journal of Affective Disorders 72.1 (2002): 1-14. Oct. 2002. Web. 17 June 2017.
Munafò, Marcus R. “THE SEROTONIN TRANSPORTER GENE AND DEPRESSION.” Depression and Anxiety 29.11 (2012): 915-17. PubMed. US National Library of Medicine, 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 June 2017.


Faris, Stephanie. “Is Depression Genetic?” Healthline (10 Oct. 2016): n. pag. Healthline. Healthline Media, 10 Oct. 2016. Web. 17 June 2017.
Scaccia, Annamarya. “Serotonin: What You Need to Know.” Healthline. Healthline Media, 18 May 2017. Web. 17 June 2017. <http://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin#functions2>.
Sinclair, Leslie. “Two Groups Arrive at Same Location for Major-Depression Gene.” Psychiatric News 46.13 (2011): 20-24. 1 July 2011. Web. 17 June 2017.
“Genetic Link to Depression Found – Health News.” NHS Choices. NHS, 16 May 2011. Web. 17 June 2017. <http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/05May/Pages/genetic-link-to-depression-found.aspx>.
Hutson, Matthew. “Does Depression Have an Evolutionary Purpose? – Issue 45: Power.” Nautilus. Nautilus, 09 Feb. 2017. Web. 17 June 2017. <http://nautil.us/issue/45/power/does-depression-have-an-evolutionary-purpose>.


Czoty, Paul W., Robert W. Gould, and Michael A. Nader. “Relationship between Social Rank and Cortisol and Testosterone Concentrations in Male Cynomolgus Monkeys (Macaca Fascicularis).” Journal of Neuroendocrinology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2009. Web. 17 June 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2709846/>.
Lohoff, Falk W. “Overview of the Genetics of Major Depressive Disorder.” Current Psychiatry Reports. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 6 Dec. 2010. Web. 17 June 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3077049/>.

Government Publication:

 U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression. By National Institute of Mental Health. National Institute of Mental Health, Oct. 2016. Web. 17 June 2017




  1. You Ted Ed Talk was really interesting Deon! I love how you decided to do something a little different and animate your Ted Talk instead of doing a slideshow/power point like a lot of other people (Including myself) are doing. It makes it more interesting to watch. I also thought that the animations added a great way to simplify what you were saying, and describe things in a way people could understand, and the simple images were great for that. I also found it really interesting how you drew “depression” as a dog in the animation. One thing that really intrigued me in your ted talk was that depression could be caused by either genetics or your environment around you. I had never realized before that depression could be hereditary. That leads me to the first of a few questions I have for you:

    1. When talking about the different causes of depression; are there different symptoms of depression when comparing hereditary depression to depression based on your environment, or do they appear in the same ways?

    2. You mentioned that the hippocampi of people with depression were smaller. What exactly is the hippocampus responsible for in the human brain?

    3. You were also talking about how there is a direct link between dominance and stress levels in a certain type of monkey. Which ones had the higher stress levels? The ones who were more dominant or less?

    I really enjoyed how you linked your ted talk to animals as well as humans, and how our brains our similar and different to the animals. It helped to keep variety in the talk and kept me engaged the whole time. Awesome Ted Ed Talk!

    • Hi Tori,
      Thank you so much for your comment!
      The black dog idea is originally from Winston Churchill who compared his depression symptoms to having a black dog, then later made into an illustration and video by the World Health Organization:https://youtu.be/XiCrniLQGYc This idea is then adapted in an original TED- Ed by Helen M. Farrel into more animated black dog. So I used the design of “depression” from that particular TED- Ed, which you can watch here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-IR48Mb3W0&t= In fact like I mentioned in my post I’ve borrowed both the colour choice and the black dog from this TED-Ed.
      And here are the answers to your questions based on my knowledge so far:
      1. The symptoms of depression, like many other mental illnesses, vary from person to person. However, from the knowledge of current psychiatry, depression is not only caused by genes. In other words, even if you inherit a series of genes that increases your risk of depression, you may not experience depression at all in life depending on the conditions you live in. This shows that the two factors both at least play a little role in the cause of depression. So there is no distinct difference between hereditary depression and environmental depression as far as I know.
      2. The hippocampus is a part of the limbic systems, which is in charge of our emotion, behavior, motivation, long- term memory, etc. This could explain why people with depression often have low energy, long periods of low mood, loss of interest and motivation. Patients with Alzheimer’s are also known to have damage in the hippocampus, as it affects their memory.
      3. The relationship between stress levels and dominance in Macaque monkeys is in inverse. Which means that the more dominant a monkey is, the less stressed it is. Which is why I chose to use a scale to represent this relationship because if one goes up, the other goes down.

      Thank you for watching my TED-Ed and providing such thoughtful feedback!!

  2. Hey, that was pretty amazing. I would say that with the TED-ed logo on and the ending screen, it would look and pass off as a real TED talk. Like if I saw this on TED ed’s YouTube I wouldn’t be surprised. Your information was very organised, and I really loved how you give us sort of a “call to action” that tells us what we can do. There is also interesting info in there that kept our attention. Overall, as I mentioned already, it is very, very professional. And connecting to my own talk, 70% of intelligence test scores came from genetic influences (as compared to the 40-50% u mentioned for depression), so I guess the genes that contribute to a higher analytical intelligence have a higher chance to be passed down through the generations. Or maybe intelligence is something that is more static than depression, so environmental influences have less impact.

    I do have like one small question. Is depression a disease or disorder? You referred to depression as an illness several times in the video. Does that mean it is a desease? Or is “illness” just a general, broad term that you are using.

    P.S. the Animation is to amazzing for my eyes, it makes me depressed

    • Hey Tony, thanks for your comment!
      Like I mentioned in the post, my TED-Ed isn’t completely original, it used the same colours, style, as well as the black dog “depression” from a pre-existing TED-Ed, but I did draw everything myself. So please don’t be depressed. (also note that being depressed is different from having depression!)
      And to answer your question, the word “disease” and “illness” are mostly interchangeable. However, a disease is when an organ of the body does not function properly with a clear reason, while an illness is a subjective feeling of discomfort that has no identifiable reason. A disorder is an unhealthy mental or physical condition. Technically, depression is a dysfunction in the brain where neurotransmitters(such as serotonin) are imbalanced. However, we do not exactly know why this happens. And while it is a dysfunction in the brain, there are many other subjective symptoms that vary from person to person. Not only that, the dysfunction in a disease is often physical, so although there are changes in the brain we do not exactly know the direct connection to depression. I know for sure that depression is a disorder because it is also called major depressive disorder. So I would assume that depression could technically be both, but I lean more towards the illness because of how intangible it is. I’m not very sure. And current science still hasn’t explored all components of depression either. In the video I used the words interchangeably, so I apologize for the inaccuracy. Thank you for your extremely thoughtful question Tony!

  3. Awesome job, Deon. First off, you spoke really clearly which is good. I really like the animation, it really helped paint the idea in the viewer’s mind, especially the depression dog. I agree with Tony that it was nice how you gave us a sort of “call to action” towards the end. I was a bit confused when you said “current psychology still cannot track the exact cause or causes of depression” because I thought the “causes” of depression had already been explained. So, I guess my question would be “What are scientists yet to discover about depression?” or “What are scientists still trying to discover about depression?” Overall, I enjoyed watching your video.

    • Thank you for the comment Elyjah!
      Like I said before the depression dog isn’t my idea, it’s from an TED-Ed original called “what is depression” by Helen M. Farrel.
      To answer your question, there are still so many things that we don’t know about depression. The cause/causes of depression are still not explained in the sense as to why it happens. It may be caused by major life events, but sometimes there’s no reason at all! Just because someone inherited a set of genes that increase their risk doesn’t mean that is the solid reason for depression. They’re just factors that seem to have connections with depression. Scientists are still trying to discover what causes symptoms such as excessive guilt, aches and pains, digestive problems, etc. Above all, there is currently no cure for depression. There are treatments, but they may not be helpful to certain people. The vaccine that I mentioned is still under development as it has not been tested on humans yet. If you have clinical depression, there is a chance that you will not be cured at all. In addition, depression can revisit patients as well. Since it’s such an intangible disorder we still many things to determine.
      I hope this answers your question! Thank you for the comment!

  4. Really well done and beautifully animated, Deon! The colour scheme was pleasing, and the repeated symbols were really nice and did not take away from your talking at all. Though your voice doesn’t really sound like you in this video, you were very articulate and explained your concepts very clearly. Despite your superb explanation, I still have a question about one thing. If depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, then how does it tie into your explanation? Sorry if this question is difficult to answer, I’m just trying to find the link.

    • Hello Michelle,
      Thank you for the comment!
      Regarding your question, I would like to note that depression is not completely caused by the chemical imbalance in the brain. Like I said in the video, it is more likely to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. This combination could cause a chemical imbalance in the brain thus affecting the patient, but again, we don’t exactly know the full picture yet. The exact cause of depression is actually still not clear. Scientists cannot predict when or who is going to get depression based on their neurotransmitter in the brain or the genes that they inherited. Many of the things we think we know about depression are hypotheses(such as the Social Navigation Hypothesis that I mentioned in the video) that are yet to be proven. The connection between genetics, environment, and neurotransmitters in depression are still yet to be discovered!

  5. Woah! Deon!! Your TED-Ed video is so cool! I love the colour scheme and art style. I love the similarities between our research, ahaha. It is interesting how mental illnesses develop, especially since anything that would lead to suicide goes against the evolutionary necessity of reproduction. Mice developing depression is also interesting, since their similarity to humans allows for so many lab tests. A question; how does ketamine help other than stimulating what I believe would be the pleasure centres? And how do the scientists avoid causing substance reliance or abuse? Overall really awesome talk, and a very good closing remark.

    • Hi Yuwen, thank you for your feedback!
      To answer your question, ketamine has been found to increase stress resilience in rats. And this effect seemed to be long term as well. However, ketamine has not been tested on humans regarding to depression or other mental illnesses yet, so we do not know how the scientists are working to avoid substance abuse. Repurposing ketamine as a cure to depression is a very new concept and much of the research has not been done yet. For more information check out this TED talk:https://www.ted.com/talks/rebecca_brachman_could_a_drug_prevent_depression_and_ptsd
      Thank you for your comment Yuwen!

  6. Hey, Deon! great talk. This was by far the coolest to watch, and I enjoyed your analogies in your animation. This did remind me of the TED-ED video I watched sometime ago. However, I think your was much easier to follow. I liked how you talked about advantages of depression symptoms, which is a hard topic to argue for! Also, the example with rats stuck with me, because I have a bird susceptible to depression from a lack of social interaction. Is depression common in unsocial species as well?

    • Thank you very much for your comment.
      That is a great question Jason. Although study shows that rats (a social animal) with damaged hippocampi withdrew from social interactions, this does not directly connect to depression. It is a peculiar result seeing that rats usually interact with other rats. However, it’s more likely to say that this information suggests a relationship between hippocampus volume and social interaction, rather than social interaction and depression. In other words, just because an organism has a lack of social interaction does not mean that they have depression. Simply because this species might not be social at all. All of the animal- related depression studies still does not have a solid conclusion that animals even have depression at all.
      I hope this answers your question, thank you for your feedback Jason!

  7. Really, really, really awesome job Deon!! Of course, I loved the animation style and how you used an animal to represent depression. I also really appreciate the time you put into actually animating this, as I know it’s extremely time consuming and frustrating sometimes. I thought it was especially cool that you made the objects and scenes look like they were moving even though nothing was in motion. About your topic, I really appreciate the level of sensitivity you used while approaching this; as you never know what someone is going through. Your research is superb, and it’s obvious that you are knowledgeable about the topic. Something I thought was really interesting was the fact that you even adopted children can get depression from their non-biological parents. Along with psychological and inherited genes, are there any other things that can contribute to one having depression?

    • Hello Sam,
      Thank you for your thoughtful feedback!
      Aside from genetic and psychological factors, major life events or experiences may also affect depression. However, by major life events it also includes that of positive ones. Such as moving into college, getting married, childbirth etc. Although such events seem to have a positive impact on the person, big changes like these can lead to depression due to the unfamiliarity of these events. Depression can also be influenced by how you were raised as a child. So if you grew up with close relatives suffering from depression, as a child you may view these symptoms as normal and eventually start behaving so.
      That’s the best answer I can give, hopefully your question is answered!
      Again, thank you for your comment!

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