Researchers Find No Brain Differences in Depression

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From Mad in America: In a recent article in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, scientists studied depression and the brain. They discovered that there were no big differences in the brains of people with depression compared to those without it. But it was found that things in a person’s life like their surroundings and the people they’re with, called social and environmental factors, had a strong effect on whether someone might have depression or not.

A group of scientists studied depression by looking at 861 people who had been diagnosed with depression and 948 people who didn’t have depression (they called them “healthy controls”). They wanted to know if there were any differences in how their brains worked.

To do this, the scientists used many ways to look at the brains, like taking pictures with an MRI- Magnetic Resonance Imaging and doing activities while in the machine (fMRI- functional magnetic resonance imaging). They also checked if a person’s genes could be connected to depression. The scientists also asked questions about people’s lives, like if they had a tough time when they were younger or if they had good friends and family support.

After all of this, the researchers found that when they looked at the brains, there weren’t big differences between those with depression and those without it. But they found something important. The way people grew up and the kind of support they had from friends and family seemed to play a big role in whether someone had depression or not.

The brain tests that the scientists did, did not show any connection with depression. Even when they looked at all the results that weren’t very clear, these brain tests together could only explain less than 2% of whether someone had depression or not. In fact, when they tried to use the brain tests to figure out if someone had depression, the accuracy was almost the same as doing guess work. 

They also looked at genes. They tried to use these genes to predict depression, but even that wasn’t much better than guessing. 

But, when it came to things like having good friends or a tough childhood, one could tell if someone might have depression with more than 70% accuracy just by looking at these things.

The scientists only looked at how much support someone had from others and if they had a tough time when they were younger. But there are many more things they could look at, like negative experiences or difficult events, such as losing a job or a loved one, being treated badly by others, or not having enough money.

This article was originally published in Mad in America and can be accessed here.

This is an AI generated version shortened and edited for a South Asian audience.


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