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Depression Risk Linked to Cortical Thinning

Loss of brain cortex matter associated with depression in people with a family history

MONDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- People with a family history of depression are more likely to develop the illness if they have loss of brain cortex matter, according to research published online March 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Bradley Peterson, M.D., from Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues compared the thickness of the lateral cortex in the brains of 131 individuals (aged 6 to 54 years), with or without a family history of depression, using MRI. The subjects were part of a depression study, which followed the families for more than 25 years.

The researchers found that individuals with thinning of the right lateral cortex had a higher risk of depression as well as some problems with memory and attention. Individuals with a family history of depression had a 28 percent thinning in the right side of the cortex compared to people with no known risk. Subjects who also had thinning of the left cortex developed depression or anxiety, according to the authors.

"Our findings suggest rather strongly that if you have thinning in the right hemisphere of the brain, you may be predisposed to depression and may also have some cognitive and inattention issues," the authors conclude. "If you have additional thinning in the same region of the left hemisphere, that seems to tip you over from having a vulnerability to developing symptoms of an overt illness."

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