Published On: Fri, Jul 28th, 2017

Depression changes the brain’s matter linked to emotion, thinking skills, study suggests


There is a link between depression and changes in parts of the brain known as white matter, which we use to process our emotions and thoughts, according to a new study conducted by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Depression is the world’s leading feature of some psychiatric syndromes

Depression is the world’s leading feature of some psychiatric syndromes with 40 million adults (18% of the population) affected in the U.S. alone. People with a depressed mood may be notably exhausted, sad, and feeling of emptiness. The symptoms include anxious, hopeless, helpless, or worthless, senses of guilt or anger.

White matter is an essential component of the brain’s wiring and its disruption linked to problems with emotion processing and thinking skills. The discoveries shed light on the biology of depression and could help for better diagnosis and treatment.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, analyzed data from 3,461 people in the U.K. Biobank, a national research resource for health data from 500,000 volunteers, making it largest study to date.

A quality of the matter – known as white matter integrity – reduced in people with depression. The same changes were not seen in people who were unaffected. The same changes were not seen in people who were unaffected.

The scientists used diffusion tensor imaging, which is based on MRI, to create highly detailed maps of the fibers in the brain. When they compared images of people in depression to healthy people, they realized that there were significant differences in the quality of the white matter (“integrity”) which was reduced.

Heather Whalley, who led the team, said in a press release that “there is an urgent need to provide treatment for depression and an improved understanding of it[s] mechanisms will give us a better chance of developing new and more efficient methods of treatment. Our next steps will be to look at how the absence of changes in the brain relates to better protection from distress and depressed mood.”



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