Depression Shown in Physical Brain Areas, and Other News

Woman laying in bed looking out windowAn investigation by a team of international researchers suggests depression is closely associated with specific areas of the physical brain. These findings could eventually contribute to the development of new treatments for depression that target the associated areas. Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world, so the advancement of any knowledge related to the issue would likely have global implications.

Published in the journal Brain, this study included an examination of high-precision MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) from 909 participants. Among the subjects, 421 had been diagnosed with major depression and 488 did not have a mental health diagnosis. Resting MRI imagery (MRIs taken while not performing any tasks) from each of the groups was compared to look for significant differences in the strength of physical connections throughout the brain.

Multiple brain areas were found to be different in people with a depression diagnosis. Some of the identified parts showed lessened connectivity, while others appeared to be enhanced. Overall, it was noted that depression was associated with physical deficits in brain areas related to rewarding experiences, while areas with ties to punishment were instead overactive or strengthened.

The authors suggest these findings point to these areas of the brain as being the physical source of depression because impairments in the reward/punishment system can explain many of symptoms and potentially lead to more targeted treatment options.

Depression Could Be Treated with Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Researchers have discovered people with depression symptoms may respond favorably to treatment with anti-inflammatory medications. The drugs are normally part of an approach to arthritic inflammation management called anti-cytokine therapy. This study was a meta-analysis that included data from multiple studies with a total of 2,370 participants. Four different medications from the anti-cytokine group showed significant improvements in depression symptoms. These findings highlight the importance of investigating “outside-the-box” approaches to mental health treatments.

Children Involved in Cyber-Bullying Much More Likely to View Web Content Containing Self-Harm and Suicide, According to a New Study

A recent investigation in England has found at least 10% of children are involved in cyberbullying—as a victim, perpetrator, or both. The research included survey data from more than 20,000 European children between 11 and 16 years of age. Statistical analysis revealed cyberbullying involvement of any form was linked with higher rates of viewing self-harm and suicide content online and reports of conduct problems. Victims of cyberbullying were more likely to view suicide-based materials and to have problems with peers and emotions. The study’s authors call for further web-based prevention and intervention methods for children involved in any way with cyberbullying.

Insight into Sleep’s Role in Schizophrenia Offers Potential Treatment Path

New observations have linked sleep issues with schizophrenia, providing a physical target for treatments that could be developed as a result. The authors of this review examined electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings of brain activity of participants during sleep and compared them to evidence regarding the presence or absence of genes related to schizophrenia symptoms. They found these genes were associated with a reduction in common sleeping events called sleep spindles (only visible on brain activity scans), which occur during stage 2 sleep and are linked with memory consolidation. It was also demonstrated spindles can be enhanced with medication already used by people with schizophrenia, and the existing evidence shows such treatments may also improve memory.

Instagram’s New Tool Offers Support to People with Mental Health Issues

Person drinking coffee and looking at phoneThe popular visual-based social media platform Instagram has introduced a tool that enables its more than 500 million monthly users to anonymously report and receive help for mental health issues. It works by redirecting users to a support page after they have searched for hashtags associated with unhealthy behaviors—such as self-harm or suicidal thoughts—and poor psychological well-being. If they choose to use the tool, people will be able to access a selection of information and support options that are designed to be specific to their situation.

4 Officers, 1 Social Worker, 9,200 Crisis Calls: Could a New App Help Seattle?

Like many areas of the country, Seattle is experiencing a shortage of health care professionals. The city’s Crisis Response Unit is a special team with the task of easing workloads for police officers so they may respond to incidents they can more effectively handle. However, like similar service providers, the crisis team is also understaffed. Because no relief appears to be coming from other sources, police are now having an app developed to help officers interact with people in crisis when the team is unavailable. It is expected to go into use next month.

America Ranks in Top 10 in Empathy

The United States ranks 7th in a unique study of empathy that included 63 countries. Despite being included in the top 10, researchers say this ranking represents a decline when compared to past years. Decreased empathy may indicate many Americans are moving toward an individual-first perspective. The investigation included more than 104,000 people and identified Ecuador as the most empathetic country. Lithuania had the lowest measurement of empathy.

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  • Abby

    October 21st, 2016 at 10:51 AM

    I am all for the thinking outside of the box approach to treatment as long as we know that we should first do no harm. I think that it is perfectly fine to look for different options when other treatment methods haven’t worked, and it can only lead to some sort of relief in the patient that you least you are trying everything possible to help them.

  • loren

    October 21st, 2016 at 2:14 PM

    how can a thriving city like Seattle be so critically low in this area?

  • Olive

    October 24th, 2016 at 2:52 PM

    Way to go Instagram!

  • Max

    October 25th, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    The more that we learn about depression, the causes and how it develops within the individual then the better we are the going to be able to help and treat the millions who suffer from sort of depression each and every year. It can be a hard thing to talk about with others because you never know how they will react and sometimes you find yourself working with a provider who may or may not be the most educated about what would be the best treatment in your case. The more that we can do to encourage greater education and learning then the more that we can better understand this illness and help those who battle it.

  • Alec

    October 26th, 2016 at 4:10 PM

    I do think that there are many people who are quite empathetic with others, but I think that those numbers are quickly dwindling. I don’t think that there is nearly the care and compassion for one another than what used to be present in our country. I think that we have gone from being a nation that cares deeply about one another to a nation that has a tendency to focus on the individual rather than the collective good.

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