Friday, March 27, 2009

Thinning of brain cortex linked to hereditary depression.

(Apparently today is the day that Colleen became totally obsessed with science.) A fascinating article in the Los Angeles Times talks about the suspected link between the thinning of the brain cortex and hereditary depression:
On average, people with a family history of depression appear to have brains that are 28% thinner in the right cortex -- the outermost layer of the brain -- than those with no known family history of the disease. That cortical thinning, said the researchers, is on a scale similar to that seen in patients with Alzheimer's disease or schizophrenia.

"These are really impressive anatomical differences," said Dr. Bradley Peterson, the lead author of the study. The greater the anatomical differences seen in patients, on average, the more severe were their symptoms of intellectual impairment, he said. But thinning on the right side was associated with cognitive problems only; when thinning began to occur on the left side of the cortex, the hallmark symptoms of depression or anxiety became evident as well.
Read the whole piece here.

14 comments:

Kim Kasch said...

Just thought you might like to see that you got an "Honorable Mention" in ”The Best of the Best for Blogging Agents”

Jane Smith said...

Colleen, this is fascinating (and I think you should get obsessed with science more often).

I've blogged about the connection between writing and depression twice now, and found Kay Redfield Jamison's book on the subject, Touched By Fire, incredibly informative. And to go off on a completely new tangent, have you seen the Bad Science blog? Brilliant stuff. The book is great too.

BuffySquirrel said...

hah!

I've come to terms with my faulty memory. The rest of the world should too! lol

Janet said...

I don't know. Adding science nerd to your status as book nerd is pretty cool.

Interesting science too. I'm still freaking over grape-sized amoebas.

Sooki Scott said...

Oh great, the only thing on me that's thin is not visible.



Confucius says; man who drive like hell bound to get there.

moonrat said...

wooooooooooooooow

i wonder how this will change things, though? i foresee a lot of pre-emptive drugging in our futures...

NICOLA MORGAN said...

I'm such a science nerd (especially when it comes to neuroscience) that I even have a whole website section on brains - http://www.nicolamorgan.co.uk/talkaboutbrains/default.php

And I carry an artificial one around with me (just in case), as you'll see here: http://ghostlygalleon.blogspot.com/2009/03/my-brain-causes-airport-security-alert.html

And for all you people out there who find the brain fascinating (who COULDN'T??) then I recommend Sciam Mind - sub is worth every penny. One recent piece about depression argued that one cause of so much depression in our modern world could be the fact that nowadays we aren't active/physical enough, don't use our hands/make things etc etc, which leads to some fairly simple possible solutions or at least steps to take.

And I do agree about the Bad Science blog - great stuff.

Vieva said...

It really raises a lot of questions about how the mind works.

And re: Moonrat's preemptive drugging - if it keeps people from suffering from depression, and suffering from the REALLY annoying social stigma that we "should be able to snap out of it" .. well ....

I'd take a small dose of a med early to keep things from getting bad WAY more over the crash and attempt to dig out of a hole after you fall in .....

marilynpeake said...

It's interesting that the study doesn't actually state a causal relationship. It's very possible that depression and thinning of brain cortex both come from the same source, e.g. lack of exercise, as Nicola Morgan mentioned earlier in this thread. Years ago, Alzheimer’s was barely understood and seemed to be caused entirely by biological sources. Now, we know that it can often be prevented by a physically and mentally active lifestyle; and physical exercise often alleviates depression.

christine tripp said...

So, someone with a brain tumour didn't exercise enough? A child born with a bad heart didnt't do what right?
Breast cancer, is that from lack of movement? I had a pal die from breast cancer who used to work out and run marathons. Never smoked, drank in moderation.

My husband suffers from sever depression yet he does physical work all day in the construction industry. My daughter had the first signs of her clinical depression show up when she was 10 (she ran about like other children do)
I understand the whole endorphine relationship to depression. Endorphines are produced in large amounts during physical exercise and that helps to give the brain a "high" but that will not abate nor end a true clinical depression all together. Banana's work too, but that is not a cure. Once you stop running, and the endorphines stop, your still depressed. It's much like telling someone with a brain tumour to jog. Ain't going to cure the problem.
Till people come to grips with the fact that the brain is just another organ in the body, that it can become ill as can the heart, the liver, we will never get past the old, "snap out of it, stop feeling sorry for yourself" attitude.
Personally, I think this is a fantastic break through, thrilled to read about it. I can only hope science cares enough about "the brain" to keep researching the organ and going forward.

Ulysses said...

This reminds me of the link between the presence of aluminum deposits in the brain and Alzheimer's disease. Where you find one condition (thin cortex, aluminum), you often find the other (depression, Alzheimer's). However, the cause-and-effect relationship isn't necessarily established and a lot more research is required.

Yes, the unicell looks like a grape, but how does it TASTE?

Moonrat: you mean there's not a lot of pre-emptive drugging already? I see people pre-emptively drugging on street corners every day, and I bet they don't even HAVE a disease! 8)

marilynpeake said...

christine tripp,

You misunderstood me. I didn't say that depression or Alzheimer's are always caused by lack of exercise, just sometimes. I was trying to say that there are multiple causes of these problems, different causation for different people, not always completely and irrevocably biological for everyone. I think it's very good news in the case of Alzheimer's that physical and mental activity can sometimes prevent it, whereas it was once believed to be unavoidable in all cases. This is true even of cancer, by the way. For some people, cancer is primarily genetic; but, in other cases, a healthy lifestyle will prevent it from developing. I think that's good news.

Dorothy said...

A very intriquing hypothesis, especialy re: gaps in memory. Could help me understand the people I mutter about as in "what world are they living in?" I swear my mother and aunt grew up in 2 different households--but which one had cortical thinning? One was medicated for anxiety. One self medicated with books and food. Me? I take after my father.

christine tripp said...

Sorry Marilyn, I was in a bad mood when I read the comment and "fired back" and it wasn't personal, just me, dealing with the harsh reality of loved one's with depression:)
Hope I didn't make you feel bad or awkward etc.
I too agree that lifestyle may play a part in avoiding the presumed medical furture that heridity can pass down, though often it's just not enough on it's own. As with Breast Cancer.
Genetics is an amazing thing and we must agree it's a large part of our makeup, yet try to do what we can to "change" it as much as possible, while still being very aware that it is there.