Unraveling the Biological Blueprint and Cognitive Impact

Research investigating the depressed brain has identified particular genes, molecules, brain regions, and cognitive features linked to depression.

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.

High Prevalence of Severe Depression in the U.S.

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)
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“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,” said Diego A. Pizzagalli, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and moderator of the press conference.

This research was supported by national funding agencies including the National Institutes of Health and private funding organizations. Find out more about depression and the brain on BrainFacts.org.

Source: Eurekalert

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