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Sci Tech Daily on 12/5/2022 by University of Texas at Dallas
A longitudinal imaging study connects reduced ventral striatum activity to later depression.
A recent imaging study led by a scientist at The University of Texas at Dallas discovered early risk factors linked to children’s temperament as well as a neural process that might predict whether a person would develop depression and anxiety in adolescence and early adulthood.
The study, which was recently published in JAMA Psychiatry, followed a cohort of 165 people from the time they were 4 months old between 1989 and 1993 until the age of 26.
According to the study’s co-author, Dr. Alva Tang, an assistant professor of psychology in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, people who were more inhibited as children and who also don’t respond typically to potential rewards in adolescence are more likely to suffer from depression later in life, more so than anxiety.
“The findings highlight different mechanisms in the brain and relate them to who is at greater risk for developing different mental health issues,” said Tang, who conducted the research at the University of Maryland, College Park, before joining UT Dallas in August. “These results could inform the development of prevention-oriented treatments tailored to the individual.”
When newborns are introduced to new objects, people, or situations, some react favorably and approach them without fear, while others react with caution or avoidance. This distinction defines uninhibited versus inhibited behavior.
“We know that inhibited children are more likely to have anxiety disorders later, particularly social anxiety, that begins in late childhood to adolescence,” Tang said. “Less has been known about depression, which generally has a later onset, in young adulthood. But we do know that people who have had an anxiety disorder are 50% to 60% more likely to have depression later in life, so inhibited children should have a higher risk for depression as well.”
Tang’s research is unique for its characterization of the patients’ early temperamental risks as well as the length of time they were studied.
“To show any relation with increases in depressive symptoms over time, we have to follow subjects for decades because full-blown syndromes usually do not emerge until young adulthood,” she said.