Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have found brain changes in preschool-age children with depression. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the brain changes were not evident in non-depressed children.

The study, published in the July issue of The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry examined 23 children between the ages of 4 and 6 years old who had been diagnosed with depression, and 31 children within the same age range who were not depressed. The researchers used well-validated tests to diagnose depression. Children with neurological disorders, developmental disorders, autism, or who had been born prematurely were not part of the study. None of the children were taking antidepressants.

While undergoing M.R.I brain scans, the children viewed pictures of happy, sad, fearful or neutral faces. The researchers found that the right amygdala and right thalamus activity was notably greater in the depressed children. This finding has also been seen in depressed adolescents and adults.

Lead author, Michael S. Gaffrey, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Washington University said, “We found something in the brain that is aligned with the idea of neurobiological models of depression – which parts of the brain and how they interact.” “We can begin to use this information in conjunction with other information – symptoms, other biological markers – to identify and eventually prevent and treat this disorder…..    7-10-13

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