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New Clues to Treating Tough Cases of Depression

Brain scans find differences between healthy, severely depressed people

FRIDAY, Oct. 3, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Using brain imaging, an international team of scientists has found significant differences in brain activity between healthy people and those who suffer from treatment-resistant clinical depression.

The study, published in the Oct. 15 issue of Biological Psychiatry, offers new clues that may lead to improved treatment for people with severe depression who don't respond to conventional treatment.

"This is a significant step in unraveling the reasons why these people may not be responding to the antidepressant drugs currently available," researcher Tonmoy Sharma, director of the Clinical Neuroscience Research Center in Dartford, England, says in a news release.

He and his colleagues studied six women with treatment-resistant depression and six healthy women. All the women viewed a series of images that included a picture and caption. While the women viewed the images, their emotional reactions were observed using a brain imaging technique called functional magnetic imaging (fMRI).

This imaging technique tracks brain activity and can pinpoint areas of the brain used in specific tasks.

The researchers found the women with depression processed their emotional response to the images differently than the healthy women. Compared with the healthy women, some parts of the brain were less active in the women with depression, while other brain areas showed greater activity.

For example, an area of the brain called the subgenual cingulate, associated with sadness in healthy people, was activated by positive images in the women with depression.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about depression.

SOURCE: PsychMed Group, news release, Oct. 3, 2003
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