Researchers Examine New Way to Identify Depression in Children

Researchers believe they have found a way to identify children who have major depressive symptoms from those who have obsessive-compulsive tendencies. A study conducted by scientists at Wayne State University, examined the cortical thickness of clients with major depression, those with obsessive compulsive tendencies, and a control group. The findings showed that the clients who were diagnosed with depression had cortical thinning in five key regions, and thickness in the bilateral temporal pole. The clients with obsessive-compulsive symptoms showed only a slight thinning in their left supramarginal gyrus.

“The findings from our study are very exciting,” said David Rosenberg, M.D., the Miriam L. Hamburger Endowed Chair of Child Psychiatry and professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences in the School of Medicine at Wayne State University, and co-author of the study. “By measuring cortical thickness, we were able to distinguish depressed children not only from healthy children without depression, but also from those with another psychiatric disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder.” The results also showed that clients with an immediate family member with depression also had an increase in cortical thickness. “Depressed children with and without a family history of depression who met the same clinical criteria of depression and who appeared the same clinically, had completely different cortical thickness based on their family history of depression,” said Rosenberg.

These new findings offer the possibility of early recognition and intervention in children who otherwise would not be diagnosed and treated until a later date. “It may have potential treatment significance for one-third of depressed children who do not respond to any treatment, and also for many who only partially respond with continued functional impairment,” said Rosenberg in a related article. “We have found a clue to guide us to look at subtypes of depression just as we would in other chronic medical illnesses like diabetes, such as insulin dependent and non-insulin dependent diabetes.”

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Shann


    May 15th, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    It is still so difficult for me to imagine that there are children who have to suffer through depression. Whta happened to childhood being footloose and fancy free? Have we gotten so overwhelmed with our adult lives that we have allowed it to affect our kids in such a negative way?

  • Daisy


    May 15th, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    Thickening of a region in the brain sounds like a big thing.Would this have or leadto any physical problem in the nervous region?

    Although it is a good thing that they found this relation,it is useful only when parents take their kids for screening and seek the right treatment.

  • Georgia


    May 16th, 2011 at 4:21 AM

    As a parent I would have to think that any help in this venue would be a step in the right direction. Parents of kids with these types of problems have so many walss and problems that they find themselves up against and this must be so difficult to see your child go through this and feel so helpless.

  • Laura


    May 16th, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    I think Daisy hit it right on the head. It’s all in the parents hands to find out if their child is depressed and many times parents would not find it necessary.

  • marlon


    May 16th, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    depression in kids was something unheard of a generation ago and it is sad that the ages of depressed people are constantly decreasing and more and more individuals would grow up being depressed already and this will in turn us into a depressed nation.

  • Res Q

    Res Q

    May 16th, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    Do we really need to study the changes in physics of the brain to judge whether a person is depressed? Slending some time with the person and talking about his or her life is enough to guage if the person is depressed or not! There will always be signs if the person is depressed!

  • Robyn


    May 17th, 2011 at 4:24 AM

    The reality of diagnosing children who are suffering with depression is something that I am not sure that I would want to be a part of. It would be so difficult to see a child suffering in this way during what should be a carefree and fun part of their lives. I very much applaud those who have made this profession such a huge part of their lives and who strive to make these childrens lives meaningful and positive once again.

  • DT


    May 17th, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    Identifying depression or any other problem is a good thing, no doubt. But what can be done to prevent depression in kids? Is it an acquired thing or can that also be inherited? Because kids with depression sounds terrible and I hope we find ways to prevent such cases. After all prevention is better than cure.

  • A. M. Stevens

    A. M. Stevens

    May 20th, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    So we can tell if a child is depressed by how thick or thin a certain part of the brain is now, even before they show signs that they are? Just making sure that’s what it says.

    All I know about that medical jargon is that the Temporal Pole is the part of the brain that has a role in memory. The rest is over my head.

    If I understood that correctly, that’s fantastic news!

  • Steph


    May 21st, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    I would have thought that OCD and depression would present in such radically different ways in children that it would be pretty easy to distinguish one from the other. Are there elemets of the two that would look the same to the average family or doctor? I have to admit that I am a little confused.

  • Danny H. Steele

    Danny H. Steele

    May 21st, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    @A.M. — The article uses fancy terms, that’s for sure! Well the more accurately we can diagnose anything the better I reckon. Too many Social Security fraudsters fake everything from PTSD to Stockholm Syndrome using information from Wikipedia.

  • Karyn Bond

    Karyn Bond

    May 21st, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    @Shann: I think your assumption is correct. With the divorce rate sky high, kids having to deal with mountains of issues in school, and feeling hopeless and unwanted…it’s not hard to see why they would be suffering from depression.

    We could have nipped so many of their issues in the bud at their first appearance I feel, but instead they have spread unchecked and affected their lives because adults were too busy to notice.

    It’s a national tragedy.

  • Loretta Shaw

    Loretta Shaw

    May 21st, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    That is a very exciting study and definitely a ray of hope for us all who deal with depression day in and day out! It would be interesting to see if the findings would be the same in a study involving adults as well.

  • darcy a.

    darcy a.

    May 21st, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    @Loretta Shaw– It did mention that the different thickness was seen in adult family members, Loretta. These researchers could have stumbled on something big here! I’ll be praying they get additional funding to continue and extend the scope of this very significant research.

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