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Brain scans to catch child depression before it starts

Wednesday, February 03, 2016 - 01:57

Researchers at MIT's McGovern Institute are using the latest advances in brain imaging to identify children at high risk of depression before the debilitating and sometimes deadly disorder sets in. Ben Gruber reports.

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STORY: Researchers at MIT's McGovern Institute are using the latest advances in brain imaging to identify children at high risk of depression before the debilitating and sometimes deadly disorder sets in. The study involved two groups of children, one at high risk of depression due to family history and a control group with those at low risk. Kids in both groups had brain scans to map their neural pathways. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHN GABRIELI, PROFESSOR OF BRAIN AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES, MIT'S MCGOVERN INSTITUTE, SAYING: "We saw differences that were striking in a number of circuits including those that change in depression, including those involved in feelings, other parts that are involved in thinking. The additional thing besides seeing these differences were that the differences were so strong child by child that that we were very close to perfect with being able to categorize from a brain scan itself whether a child was at risk or not." The future goal is to follow these children and see who among the high risk group goes on to develop depression, tracking changes in their brain function along the way. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHN GABRIELI, PROFESSOR OF BRAIN AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES, MIT'S MCGOVERN INSTITUTE, SAYING: "Obviously the children that go on to depression the more we can identify them well the more we are hopeful that we can get preventive treatments going. Not waiting for them to be suffering but helping them beforehand." And that could improve the lives - and in some cases save those - of children at high risk. To achieve that - the researchers say further studies are necessary. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHN GABRIELI, PROFESSOR OF BRAIN AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES, MIT'S MCGOVERN INSTITUTE, SAYING: "So we want to learn both to identify early children who are at true risk, help them before they struggle and learn from those that are resilient what is different about them because that might be a hint about how to help the children that are not resilient." The World Health Organization estimates that 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. The researchers say a better understanding of how the condition affects the brain will ultimately lead to better treatment options for potential sufferers.

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Brain scans to catch child depression before it starts

Wednesday, February 03, 2016 - 01:57