Massachusetts Institute of Technology's McGovern Institute’s researchers are using the latest advances in brain imaging, to identify children at high risk of depression before getting weak and sometimes deadly disorder sets in.
As per World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is a serious mental disorder that might even lead to suicide.
The study was conducted on two groups of children - one at high risk of depression due to family history and a control group with kids at low risk.
Both group kids’ brains were scanned to notice the network pathways. The question was if the researchers could find differences in brain activity that would be an indicator for a higher risk of depression.
“There are very great differences. We saw differences that were striking in a number of circuits, including those that change in depression, including those involved in feelings, other parts that are involved in thinking. The additional thing besides seeing these differences were that the differences were so strong child by child that that we were very close to perfect with being able to categorize from a brain scan itself, whether a child was at risk or not,” said John Gabrieli, a professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT.
The experts tracked the changes in brain functioning, to find out, who among the high risk group goes on to develop depression.
“Obviously the children that go on to depression the more we can identify them well the more we are hopeful that we can get preventive treatments going. Not waiting for them to be suffering but helping them beforehand,” Gabrieli said.
“So we want to learn both to identify early children who are at true risk, help them before they struggle and learn from those that are resilient what is different about them because that might be a hint about how to help the children that are not resilient,” he added.
The researchers say a better understanding of how depression affects the brain will ultimately lead to better treatment options for those that are most at risk.
By Phani Ch