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Scientists are working to understand the exact mechanisms in the brain that correspond with the risk or development of depression in the hopes of developing earlier identification and more effective treatment options. Credit: Neuroscience News

A Neural Blueprint for Depression

Summary: New findings reveal key genetic and cognitive factors linked to depression. Research shows genetic variants affecting brain structure in adolescents, enlarged brain regions related to emotion processing indicating early intervention targets, and how depression more severely impacts reasoning in older adults.

Additionally, unique epigenetic markers in blood samples of depressed adolescents have been identified, paving the way for more effective, personalized treatments.

Key Facts:

  1. Genetic variants correlate with depression risks and brain structure changes, with sex-specific variations noted in adolescents.
  2. Adolescents with depression show increased size in brain areas linked to attention and emotion, suggesting potential targets for early intervention.
  3. Depression has a more pronounced negative impact on reasoning abilities in older adults, highlighting the need for age-specific treatment approaches.

Source: SfN

 In studies that examine the depressed brain, researchers were able to identify specific genes, molecules, brain regions, and cognitive features that are associated with the disorder.

The findings will be presented on Monday, November 13, 10–11 a.m. EST at Neuroscience 2023, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

More than 8% of adults in the United States suffer from severe depression, and the percentage is higher among specific groups, including adolescents and older adults. Depression is a complex condition that includes many different genetic components and environmental risk factors.

Scientists are working to understand the exact mechanisms in the brain that correspond with the risk or development of depression in the hopes of developing earlier identification and more effective treatment options.

New findings show that:

  • Genetic variants seem to correspond with risks for depression as indicated by changes in brain structure in adolescents, in ways both sex-specific and not. (Yu Chen, Yale University)
  • In depression, distributed brain regions involved in attention and emotion processing (i.e., the salience network) have increased size/representation in adolescents — a potential biological target for early intervention. (Sanju Koirala, University of Minnesota)
  • Higher depressive symptoms have a stronger detrimental effect on reasoning in older adults, who were studied for several years. (Denise Park, University of Texas at Dallas)
  •  Adolescents diagnosed with depression have unique epigenetic signatures in blood samples. (Cecilia Flores, McGill University)

“Identifying brain markers and risk factors for depression gets us closer to diagnosing and treating the disorder more effectively,” said Diego A. Pizzagalli, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and moderator of the press conference.

“This research will ultimately allow us to pursue a more targeted approach, especially with regards to early intervention and personalized treatment strategies in vulnerable populations.”

Funding: This research was supported by national funding agencies including the National Institutes of Health and private funding organizations.

About this depression research news

Author: Dina Radtke
Source: SfN
Contact: Dina Radtke – SfN
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: The findings will be presented at Neuroscience 2023

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