Can a Thin Brain Cut You Off From the World?

Does the structure of your brain reveal whether you’re at high risk for depression? It might, according to an upcoming PNAS study conducted by Columbia University’s Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Using MRI imaging, the researchers found that people with at high risk of developing depression (based on their family history) had a 28 percent thinning of the right cortex, the outermost surface of the brain. According to the scientists, this loss of brain matter is on par with the loss that’s seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or schizophernia.
The scientists believe this thinning might be a cause rather than a consequence of the development of depression—affecting a person’s ability to interpret and pay attention to social and emotional cues from others; the less matter a person has in the right cortex, the worse this person performs on attention and memory tests. “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,” says Dr. Bradley Peterson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia and the study’s lead author. “The more thinning you have, the greater the cognitive problems. 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.” Dan Messier

Category: Neuroscience

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