The following is excerpted from an online article posted by ScienceDaily.
A recent imaging study led by a scientist at The University of Texas at Dallas has identified early risk factors linked to children’s temperament and a neural process that could foretell whether an individual might develop depression and anxiety in adolescence and early adulthood.
The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, tracked a cohort of 165 individuals from 4 months old, between 1989 and 1993, through age 26.
Dr. Alva Tang, assistant professor of psychology in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and corresponding author of the study, said, “The findings highlight different mechanisms in the brain and relate them to who is at greater risk for developing different mental health issues. These results could inform the development of prevention-oriented treatments tailored to the individual.”
“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.”
As young children, the subjects were categorized as either inhibited or uninhibited. As adolescents, they underwent functional MRIs while completing a task to measure their brains’ reaction in anticipating rewards — in this case, trying to win money.
“We looked at the ventral striatum, a brain region well studied in terms of understanding depression in adults, to see if it’s tied to maladaptive processing in the reward centers of the brain,” Tang said.
The researchers found that the association between inhibition at 14 to 24 months of age and worsening depressive symptoms from ages 15 to 26 was present only among those who also showed blunted activity in the ventral striatum as adolescents. There was no similar association with anxiety.