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Study: Brain scans may predict depression risk better than clinical rating scales, paving the way for earlier preventive treatments

depression-children-brain-scanBrain Scans Could Iden­ti­fy Kids at Risk of Depres­sion (Smith­son­ian):

One of the most fright­en­ing aspects of depres­sion is the fact that, once some­one suf­fers a depres­sive episode, they’re very like­ly to have anoth­er. And depres­sion itself often brings oth­er ills, from sub­stance abuse to heart dis­ease…A new study from MIT and Har­vard, pub­lished in the jour­nal Bio­log­i­cal Psy­chi­a­try, sug­gests that chil­dren with a high risk of depres­sion have brain changes that can be iden­ti­fied on MRI scans.

A high per­cent­age of the at-risk chil­dren had dis­tinc­tive con­nec­tions between cer­tain parts of their brains when com­pared with a con­trol group of chil­dren with no fam­i­ly his­to­ry of depres­sion.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies had shown sim­i­lar pat­terns in the brains of depressed adults. But researchers hadn’t known whether these abnor­mal­i­ties were a cause of depres­sion or an effect. This new research—on chil­dren who were at risk of depres­sion but had not become ill yet themselves—suggests they may be a cause, an under­ly­ing issue with brain archi­tec­ture or wiring.

The team plans to fol­low the at-risk chil­dren to see who actu­al­ly devel­ops depres­sion, which will help make the screen­ing more accu­rate. They’re also plan­ning a study to see if pre­ven­ta­tive treat­ments might help at-risk chil­dren avoid depres­sion in ado­les­cence or young adult­hood. These treat­ments might include cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py, which helps peo­ple redi­rect their thoughts down more pos­i­tive paths, or mind­ful­ness, which trains the brain to slow down and focus on the present.”

Study: Altered Intrin­sic Func­tion­al Brain Archi­tec­ture in Chil­dren at Famil­ial Risk of Major Depres­sion (Bio­log­i­cal Psy­chi­a­try)

  • Back­ground: Neu­roimag­ing stud­ies of patients with major depres­sion have revealed abnor­mal intrin­sic func­tion­al con­nec­tiv­i­ty mea­sured dur­ing the rest­ing state in mul­ti­ple dis­trib­uted net­works. How­ev­er, it is unclear whether these find­ings reflect the state of major depres­sion or reflect trait neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal under­pin­nings of risk for major depres­sion.
  • Results: At-risk chil­dren exhib­it­ed hyper­con­nec­tiv­i­ty between the default mode net­work and sub­gen­u­al ante­ri­or cin­gu­late cortex/orbital frontal cor­tex, and the mag­ni­tude of con­nec­tiv­i­ty pos­i­tive­ly cor­re­lat­ed with indi­vid­ual symp­tom scores. At-risk chil­dren also exhib­it­ed 1) hypocon­nec­tiv­i­ty with­in the cog­ni­tive con­trol net­work, which also lacked the typ­i­cal anti­cor­re­la­tion with the default mode net­work; 2) hypocon­nec­tiv­i­ty between left dor­so­lat­er­al pre­frontal cor­tex and sub­gen­u­al ante­ri­or cin­gu­late cor­tex; and 3) hyper­con­nec­tiv­i­ty between the right amyg­dala and right infe­ri­or frontal gyrus, a key region for top-down mod­u­la­tion of emo­tion. Clas­si­fi­ca­tion between at-risk chil­dren and con­trol sub­jects based on rest­ing-state con­nec­tiv­i­ty yield­ed high accu­ra­cy with high sen­si­tiv­i­ty and speci­fici­ty that was supe­ri­or to clin­i­cal rat­ing scales. (Note: High­light­ed by edi­tor)
  • Con­clu­sions: Chil­dren at famil­ial risk for depres­sion exhib­it­ed atyp­i­cal func­tion­al con­nec­tiv­i­ty in the default mode, cog­ni­tive con­trol, and affec­tive net­works. Such task-inde­pen­dent func­tion­al brain mea­sures of risk for depres­sion in chil­dren could be used to pro­mote ear­ly inter­ven­tion to reduce the like­li­hood of devel­op­ing depres­sion.

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