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Children with depressed parents at higher risk of structural differences in brains: Study

The right putamen, a brain structure linked to reward, motivation and pleasure, was found to be smaller in high-risk children as compared to those with no parental history of depression.

Published: December 9, 2019 12:53:09 pm
depression, parent mental health Parents suffering from depression transfer it to the offspring, says study. (Source: Getty Images)

Parents suffering from depression transfer the condition to their children as structural differences in brains.

A study published in the journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry stated that the condition of depression typically surfaces during adolescence, and having a parent with depression is one of the contributing risk factors.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 300 million people are living with depression, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015.

Researchers analysed brain images from over 7,000 children participating in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development. They found that about one-third of the children were in the high-risk group because they had a parent with depression.

The right putamen, a brain structure linked to reward, motivation and pleasure, was found to be smaller in high-risk children as compared to those with no parental history of depression.

“The findings highlight a potential risk factor that may lead to the development of depressive disorders during a peak period of onset. However, in our prior research, smaller putamen volumes also has been linked to anhedonia — a reduced ability to experience pleasure — which is implicated in depression, substance use, psychosis, and suicidal behaviours,” said study author Randy P Auerbach, associate professor, Columbia University, US.

“Understanding differences in the brains of children with familial risk factors for depression may help to improve early identification of those at greatest risk for developing depression themselves, and lead to improved diagnosis and treatment,” added researcher David Pagliaccio.

“We have a unique opportunity to determine whether reduced putamen volumes are associated with depression specifically or mental disorders more generally,” he further said.

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