Approximately one in five adults in the United States, ie, 43.8 million, or 18.5 percent of the population, experience mental illness in a year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In 2014, 16 million adults in the US had at least one major depressive episode, while 350 million people worldwide suffered from depression every year, as per the World Health Organization (WHO).

Preventing depression, a major cause of disability, helps in winning a major battle. According to a recent study, brain scans may help identify children who are vulnerable to depression even before symptoms appear. This could have been a great leap in the field of depression treatment.

A new brain imaging study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Harvard Medical School may lead to a screening method that could identify children susceptible to developing depression later in life.

The study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in January 2016, revealed that there could be distinct brain differences in children known to be at high risk because of family history of depression. John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, said that this type of scan could have been used to identify children whose risk was previously unknown, allowing them to undergo treatment before the onset of depression.

Early intervention is important

Gabrieli said, “Early intervention is important because once a person suffers from an episode of depression, they become more likely to have another.” “If you can avoid that first bout, maybe it would put the person on a different trajectory.”

The researchers studied 27 high-risk children, aged between 8 and 14, and compared them with a group of 16 children who had no family history of depression. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure synchronization of activity between different brain regions.

Distinctive brain patterns observed at at-risk children

They observed several distinct patterns in the at-risk children. The strongest link was between the sgACC and the default mode network – a set of brain regions that is most active when the mind is unfocused. They also noticed the abnormally high synchronization in the brains of depressed adults.

The researchers said that the striking similarity of these patterns found in depressed adults suggests that the difference arises before depression occurs and may contribute to the development of the disorder.

Professor of psychology, Stanford University, Ian Gotlib, who was not a part of the study, said, “The findings are consistent with an explanation that this is contributing to the disorder of the disease. not due to the disorder. ”

The MIT team is conducting a further study to track the at-risk children and plans to investigate whether early treatment can prevent episodes of depression. They also intend to study how certain high-risk children manage to avoid the disorder without treatment.

Finding treatment options

Depression is treatable, provided the patient receives timely intervention. The depression treatment is quite reputed and employs cutting edge technology in treating patients.