Newborn brain scans predict depression

Does depression change the brain, or are brain abnormalities the cause of depression?

There’s a new study out that sheds some light on that question.

A group of scientists took their research all the way back to the beginning of life: They scanned the brains of newborn babies.

Two years later, they evaluated those children for signs of depression and anxiety (sadness, excessive shyness, nervousness, or separation anxiety — all symptoms that have been linked to depression and anxiety disorders in older children and adults).

They found a pattern in the scans. The children who showed signs of depression and anxiety at age two tended to have at birth similar connections between the amygdala (a structure involved in processing emotion) and other brain regions (such as the insula, which is associated with consciousness and emotion, and the medial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision making).

The researchers want to stretch the study out further to see if these connectivity patterns really do predict psychiatric disorders later in life, but so far the evidence is interesting. If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety now, it’s likely you were born with the brain connections that helped lead you there.

But no matter when or where you psychiatric distress came from, help is available! Therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication can counteract the tendencies you were born with or developed later in life. Let’s talk about it!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.

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