July 12, 2020   9:14am

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Depressed? Maybe your brain is thinning…

Interesting update for those with a family history of depression: it may not be that disturbed childhood of yours that is causing problems, but rather brain thinning. “Thinning of the right hemisphere is linked to a higher familial risk for depression,” according to an article in U.S. News and World Report.

The study conducted at the Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute says that the right cortex of those at high risk for major depression had a 28 percent thinning. A huge loss, on par with those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

Why? Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“The thinner cortex may increase the risk of developing depression by disrupting a person’s ability to pay attention to, and interpret, social and emotional cues from other people, [Dr. Bradley Peterson, director of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and director of MRI Research in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, and first author of the study] said. Additional tests measured each person’s level of inattention to and memory for such cues. The less brain material a person had in the right cortex, the worse they performed on the attention and memory tests.”

But thinning of the right cortex wasn’t found to equal depression, necessarily, but just put those with it at a greater risk. Although, the study did find that those exhibiting additional thinning of the cortex on the left side of the brain went on to develop such depression and anxiety.

“‘Our findings suggest rather strongly that if you have thinning in the right hemisphere of the brain, you may be predisposed to depression and may also have some cognitive and inattention issues,’ Peterson said. ‘The more thinning you have, the greater the cognitive problems. If you have additional thinning in the same region of the left hemisphere, that seems to tip you over from having a vulnerability to developing symptoms of an overt illness.'”

Also posed was the possibility that cortical thinning occurs due to problems with low dopamine, serotonin and noreadrenaline levels, leading to lesions similar to those created by strokes which result in “poor working memory, poor attention, poor decision making, and poor social behavior, all of which are signs also seen in patients with depression.”

The cure? Some are proposing using stimulant medications used to treat attention and memory disorders or those used to treat ADHD for this cortical thinning and subsequent depression.

Guess you can rule out those parental issues as the sole culprit.


U.S. News and World Report, “Depression Linked to Brain Thinning,” by LiveScience Staff, March 26, 2009

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