Brain scans could spot depression before diagnosis
New research has attempted to detect children at a high risk of depression before the illness kicks in by using brain scans.
A group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s McGovern Institute have been using brain imaging to identify the condition, which, according to the World Health Organisation, affects around 350 million people of all ages.
Two groups of children were looked into for the study - one control group with a low risk and another at a high risk due to depression running in their family. Both sets had their brains scanned to map the network pathways, with researchers noting any differences in the activity which could point towards a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with depression.
"The answer is that there are very great differences,” John Gabrieli, a professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, explained. “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 categorise from a brain scan itself whether a child was at risk or not.”
Looking to the future, researchers are planning to follow the kids to see how their predictions pan out, especially those among the high risk group. Changes in brain function will be noted along the way. The key is to help them cope before they suffer from depression and offer preventative treatments, John revealed. It’s hoped that getting a better understanding of how the condition affects the brain will contribute to better support.
"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 continued.