Depression changes structure of the brain

Depression changes structure of the brain


Monday, 19 June, 2017

Dr Heather Whalley and Prof Andrew McIntosh (both Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences) and colleagues from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing & Cognitive Epidemiology and the University of Glasgow have found, using diffusion tensor imaging, that white matter integrity is reduced in people with symptoms indicative of depression compared to those without.

Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability, affecting around a fifth of UK adults over a lifetime. Symptoms include low mood, exhaustion and feelings of emptiness. This study (the largest of its type to date) involved almost 3,500 people participants from UK Biobank (a national research resource with health data available from 500,000 volunteers) forms part of a Wellcome Trust initiative called Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally (STRADL), which aims to classify subtypes of depression and identify risk factors.

Dr Heather Whalley, Senior Research Fellow (Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences – Psychiatry) said: “This study uses data from the largest single sample published to date and shows that people with depression have changes in the white matter wiring of their brain. There is an urgent need to provide treatment for depression and an improved understanding of it mechanisms will give us a better chance of developing new and more effective methods of treatment. Our next steps will be to look at how the absence of changes in the brain relates to better protection from distress and low mood.”

This study is published in Scientific Reports