Findings of a new study have found that an important segment of the brain works in a different way in preschoolers with depressionvis-à-vis their counterparts who do not suffer from this medical condition.
This portion of the brain, termed amygdale, is responsible for processing human emotions, reveals the new study conducted by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The findings of the latest study could pave way for an early identification and treatment depression in children. The early intervention would reduce problems for such children in later life.
For the purpose of the study, researchers examined the functioning of the brains of 54 children aged between four and six with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
At the start of the study 23 had been diagnosed to be suffering from the mental health disorder, while the rest of the 31 children did not have depression.
All these children were exposed to pictures of people having different facial expressions. They were thus shown happy faces, sad faces, fearful faces as well as people with neutral facial expressions.
The researchers noted an elevated activity level in the amygdala region of the depressed children. This heightened activity in the brain was observed irrespective of the type of face shown to the children. These children reacted not only to a happy or sad face, but also to a stoic expression.
“Not only did we find elevated amygdala activity during face viewing in children with depression, but that greater activity in the amygdala also was associated with parents reporting more sadness and emotion regulation difficulties in their children,” said Michael S. Gaffrey, lead author of the study.
“Taken together, that suggests we may be seeing an exaggeration of a normal developmental response in the brain and that, hopefully, with proper prevention or treatment, we may be able to get these kids back on track,” opined Gaffery.
The findings of the present study underscore the fact that depression is a real mental disorder that requires appropriate treatment. If the condition is not controlled at an early stage, it can lead to lifelong problems.
The findings of the study find mention in the July issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.