Familial depression and cortical thickness
To continue with a discussion of how depression might manifest in the brain, I thought I would talk about bigger picture things like brain anatomy. Back in 2009, this paper was published that compared brains of 131 people with or without familial history of depression. By this, I mean that their parents or grandparents had moderate to severe depression. These were not people who had depression, but who had a high (characterized by familial history) or low risk of developing it.
They found that people who had a high risk of developing depression had a 28% thinning of right hemispheric cortex. This is a huge reduction in cortex. They hypothesized that this thinning of cortex might confer a higher risk of depression by impairing that person’s ability to attend and respond to social and emotional cues from other people.
Furthermore, though thinning on the right side likely conferred a risk of developing depression, subjects who also had thinning on the left side most often actually did develop depression or anxiety. This makes it seem like it would be a graded likelihood to developing depression… thinning on the right side makes you more highly at risk, and the more thinning you have- for instance, if it also is thinned on the left side, the more likely you are to develop depression.
[Article Source: Peterson, B., Warner, V., Bansal, R., Zhu, H., Hao, X., Liu, J., Durkin, K., Adams, P., Wickramaratne, P., & Weissman, M. (2009). Cortical thinning in persons at increased familial risk for major depression Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (15), 6273-6278 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0805311106]
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