An 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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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