Brain Networks ‘Hyper-Connected’ in Young Adults who had Depression

News Release

 

[Writer] This is research news from U-I-C – the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Today, Rachel Jacobs, research assistant professor of psychiatry, talks about a study that used brain imaging to examine young adults with previous episodes of depression.

Here’s Professor Jacobs:

[Jacobs] So this study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and also by our local CCTS which is the clinical and translational research for professional development award.

So I became really interested in adolescent depression in graduate school and trying to understand how we can best help these kids and what are the best treatments and which treatments work best for whom.

So what we’ve found is that we have really good treatments that can help, including psychosocial and medication treatments. But within two years half of those teenagers will relapse. And we know that having depression across the lifespan leads to all sorts of negative outcomes and really can be impairing in terms of ones life.

So I was interested in trying to figure out how we can help people stay well, particularly during this critical developmental period where they’re transitioning out of the home and trying to establish themselves as adults. So the cool thing about this study is that we looked at resting state fMRI — so those are brain scans of these late adolescents, early adults, while they’re just lying in the scanner. And we wanted to see are the individuals who have had depression during adolescence different than their healthy peers.

So we know that people who have depression, their brains look different, but does that last into remission. So these are people that are now well. And the reason that we were interested in looking at that was to try to see if we can tell what kind of factors might have helped them get better and help them stay well versus those that might make them at greater risk for relapse. And if we could give them some additional tools to help them ameliorate those risks then maybe we could help them continue to feel better.

So what we found is that there are many regions that are hyper-connected, or talking to each other maybe a little too much, among those who have a history of depression. And we were able to link those hyper-connectivities to rumination which is thinking about a problem over and over without actively trying to problem solve. And we know that rumination is associated with relapse, length of illness, substance abuse, and other additional problems that come into play, so we know rumination is a bad thing. So some of these hyper-connectivities that are associated with rumination and some of them are associated with attention and concentration ability.

So what we’re really excited to do next is we’re following these young adults over time and we’ll be able to see who stays well and who experiences depression again. And the hope is that we can inform treatments that can better help these teenagers as they transition into adulthood.

[Writer] Rachel Jacobs is a research assistant professor in psychiatry at UIC’s Institute for Juvenile Research.

For more information about this research, go to www-dot-news-dot- uic-dot-edu, click on “news releases” and look for the release dated August 27, 2014.

This has been research news from U-I-C – the University of Illinois at Chicago.