Depression is a common but serious illness most likely caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Anyone can have the blues occasionally, but when depression comes in the way of a normal life one may need an expert advice. With the majority of people getting better with the treatment – accounting medications, psychotherapies and other methods – it is not difficult for those with depressive disorder to lead a normal life.
A study published in the Neuropsychopharmacology in 2015 brought out a breakthrough discovery. It revealed the precursor, or biomarker, that could indicate the risk of developing depression in adults and children. By studying individuals at high familial risk for major depressive disorder (MDD), the researchers aim to identify potential biomarkers associated with the risk of developing MDD, which may help in prevention and early intervention of depression in adults and children.
According to the researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI), a network of interacting brain regions known as the default mode network (DMN) is likely to have strong connections with a high risk of depression. In the study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brain connections of people at high risk for depression to those at low risk. They used MRI scans to index the brains of 111 people aged 11-60 with high and low familial risk for depression, suggesting that a greater number of connections in the DMN increased the risk for major depression.
According to the scientists, the DMN brain system is significantly active in people who are particularly involved in internal thinking, such as ruminative thoughts. Additionally, increased DMN connections that have been observed in individuals with MDD can be treated with antidepressant. As the study indicates that the process of increasing DMN connections may occur before the onset of depression, it may allow researchers to look for brain changes that are not a result of depression since the disorder has not yet manifested in most of the individuals.
“These findings suggest that looking at activity in the DMN may offer an objective method of identifying people who are at risk of developing major depression,” said lead author Myrna Weissman, Ph.D., the Diane Goldman Kemper Family Professor of epidemiology (in psychiatry) at CUMC and chief of the division of epidemiology at NYSPI. “This may represent another way towards advocacy prevention and early intervention for this major public health issue.”
The researchers claimed that the study will make it easier to identify depression before its sunset in patients and may also help find more effective treatment for the condition. “If this insight proves correct,” said Jonathan Posner, MD, lead author and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at CUMC, “behavioral interventions that improve the functioning of the DMN, such as meditation and mindfulness, could be used to address a brain- based problem (increased DMN connections), before it leads to a depressive illness, “he added.
Path to recovery
While the depressive disorders are still being studied, thankfully there are ways to deal with them so one can continue to live a regular life. Many clinicians have been using a combination of medication and psychotherapy for regular mental illness. Counseling and professional help can treat depression in an effective way.
If you or your loved one is showing symptoms of depression, you may seek help of the Depression Treatment Centers which can guide you to the right depression rehab centers.