Depression is an abnormality of one of the higher brain functions, symptoms of which (sadness, emptiness, hopelessness) can sometimes be hard to identify. The good news is advanced MRI scans may be able to spot signs of depression within the brain. Some of the identifiable abnormalities could include:
Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption
A research study presented at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) discovered that people with major depression showed less movement of water across their blood-brain barrier in certain regions of the brain (hippocampus and amygdala) using an advanced MRI imaging technique.
Abnormalities to the Connectome
Functional MRI studies on patients with major depression demonstrated abnormal excitations and inhibitions in the prefrontal cortex also known as the connectome - the network of neural connections within the brain. This part of the brain governs cognitive ability and emotions.
Loss of volume of the part of the Brain
Results of several MRI scan studies have demonstrated people with depression had a hippocampus volume that was up to 10% lower than people without depression.
Around 7% of the US population (approximately 17 million adults) have experienced at least a single major depressive episode during their lifetimes. Advanced imaging studies such as MRIs have paved the way for a greater understanding of the structural changes that occur in the brain of patients with depression and for the development of more effective treatments.
Although we're still quite not there yet, experts say the day is not far when MRI scans will able to help doctors identify and treat depression at an early stage before serious complications occur.
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