Is there an objective measurement to identify individuals at risk of developing depression?

December 18, 2015, Columbia University Medical Center
Resting-state functional MRI shows connectivity in the Default Mode Network. Credit: J.Posner

A network of interacting brain regions known as the default mode network (DMN) was found to have stronger connections in adults and children with a high risk of depression compared to those with a low risk. These findings suggest that increased DMN connectivity is a potential precursor, or biomarker, indicating a risk of developing major depressive disorder (MDD).

The study was published online today in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) used to compare people at for depression to those at low risk based on their family history of depression. This approach allowed researchers to look for differences in the brain that are not a consequence of the depression itself, since the disorder had not yet manifested in most of the individuals.

The DMN brain system is more active when people are focused on internal thinking, such as ruminative thoughts. Increased DMN connections have previously been seen in individuals with MDD, may relate to ruminative symptoms, and typically normalize with antidepressant treatment. The study reveals that the process of increasing DMN connections may occur before the onset of depression.

"These findings suggest that looking at activity in the DMN may offer an objective method of identifying people who are at risk of developing major depression," said lead author Myrna Weissman, PhD, the Diane Goldman Kemper Family Professor of Epidemiology (in Psychiatry) at CUMC and Chief of the Division of Epidemiology at NYSPI. "This may represent a another way toward advancing prevention and early intervention for this major public health issue."

"If this insight proves correct," said Jonathan Posner, MD, lead author and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at CUMC, "behavioral interventions that improve the functioning of the DMN, such as meditation and mindfulness, could be used to address a brain-based problem (increased DMN connections), before it leads to a depressive illness."

Explore further: Depressive ruminations and the idling brain: New analysis explores neural processes behind depressive rumination

More information: Jonathan Posner et al. Increased Default Mode Network Connectivity in Individuals at High Familial Risk for Depression, Neuropsychopharmacology (2015). DOI: 10.1038/npp.2015.342

Related Stories

Depressive ruminations and the idling brain: New analysis explores neural processes behind depressive rumination

July 30, 2015
Depressed people often find themselves preoccupied with guilty, shameful, or self-defeating thoughts for large parts of their day. These thoughts not only distract from other activities but also fail to resolve the underlying ...

Ascorbic acid patch reduces wrinkles due to photoaging

December 17, 2015
(HealthDay)—An ascorbic acid (AA)-loaded dissolving microneedle (DMN) patch is feasible and has anti-wrinkle effect, according to a study published online Dec. 9 in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.

Good ruminations or bad ruminations in the depressed brain?

August 22, 2011
All of us, at times, ruminate or brood on a problem in order to make the best possible decision in a complex situation. But sometimes, rumination becomes unproductive or even detrimental to making good life choices. Such ...

Activity in brain networks related to features of depression

April 3, 2012
Depressed individuals with a tendency to ruminate on negative thoughts, i.e. to repeatedly think about particular negative thoughts or memories, show different patterns of brain network activation compared to healthy individuals, ...

Selectively rewiring the brain's circuitry to treat depression

September 30, 2014
On Star Trek, it is easy to take for granted the incredible ability of futuristic doctors to wave small devices over the heads of both humans and aliens, diagnose their problems through evaluating changes in brain activity ...

Post-stroke depression linked to functional brain impairment

June 5, 2012
Researchers studying stroke patients have found a strong association between impairments in a network of the brain involved in emotional regulation and the severity of post-stroke depression. Results of the study are published ...

Recommended for you

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

A little anger in negotiation pays

March 16, 2018
During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Northwestern University.

Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning

March 15, 2018
Learning a new language may be more of a science than an art, a University of Sussex study finds.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.