Depression: we will soon be able to diagnose the disease thanks to a brain scan

Diagnosing and treating depression is not easy. On the one hand because the diagnosis obliges the patient to deliver and on the other hand the treatments are never really adapted to each individual. But that could soon change.

To diagnose depression, sufferers today must express their feelings. But in many cases, those involved do not realize that they are indeed clinically depressed. Discussing your moods with a professional then becomes very complicated. This is a problem since untreated depression can greatly interfere with a person’s life and that of those close to them. Only, it is currently difficult to help people who are not able or willing to communicate about their feelings, their feelings, because there is no biological marker for this condition. One region of the brain appears to be affected in people with depression, however, according to a recent study, raising hopes that brain scans may soon be used to diagnose the condition.

Researchers now recognize that there are genetic and environmental factors that increase the risk of depression. They are also beginning to identify the genes that are associated with the development of this disease. The symptoms are many and varied: a loss of appetite and weight, when others react in the opposite way by eating much more. Sleep problems are also common. Many people wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. Others, on the contrary, can sleep much more than usual. Other symptoms include loss of interest in doing things, decreased sex drive, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating. Some people start overthinking, overthinking, feeling guilty and starting to mope. The symptoms are thus numerous and cover a wide range, which is why a treatment that will work for one will not necessarily be effective for another. So the chances of a doctor finding the right treatment are relatively slim.

Cynthia Fu, a professor of neuroscience at the University of East London, recently looked into the effects and causes of depression. In a recent study published in the journal British Journal of Psychiatrythe researcher explains that she has studied the regions of the brain affected by depression: “ we have previously identified widespread reductions in brain tissue known as “gray matter” in the limbic lobe (support function, including emotion and motivation) and prefrontal regions (involved in planning cognitive behaviors and in decision-making) in depressed people », explains the researcher.  » We did something different here « .

During their study, the researchers analyzed 1118 scans of 458 people diagnosed with depression. Using an algorithm, the computer was able to distinguish with 84% accuracy the brain pattern of those who were depressed and those who weren’t. Regarding people considered to be “depressed”, four subtypes of brain activity were then identified. In other words, the researchers succeeded in identifying four different brain activities, all corresponding to a very specific type of depression. Diagnose depression using a brain scan and you can then tailor treatment to each individual. Like precision medicine, this is precision psychiatry, and the analysis only takes about ten minutes.

Although effective, the method here uses MRI scanners which unfortunately are not currently widely available and not everyone can use them (eg those with pacemakers). It will also be necessary to distinguish the pattern of specific brain regions for depression from other disorders such as bipolar disorders and schizophrenia which involve the same brain regions. The study is nevertheless very promising. The next step will be to replicate and generalize these specific results.


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