Research by psychiatrists at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons suggests a link between thinning of the cerebral cortex and a family history of depression. Whether the physical difference in the brain is genetic, or is rather a result of environmental factors associated with familial depression, is not yet clear.
What is clear is that brain imaging is providing more evidence that depression affects the brain, is affected and the brain, or both; individuals aged 6 to 54 years who were identified as “high-risk” for depression had an average of 28% less thickness in the right cerebral hemisphere than people identified as low-risk in this study.
Brain imaging may also help screen for individuals at risk of depression, and help understand their needs; the right cortex is associated with reasoning, planning, mood, and reading social and emotional cues—all areas that would be affected by and contribute to a depression.
The study, to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was primarily the work of by Dr. Myrna Weissman and Dr. Bradley S. Peterson. “You’re seeing it two generations later, and you’re seeing it in both children and adults,” said Dr. Peterson, “and it’s present even if those offspring themselves have not … become ill.”
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