Humans and Health

What are the implications of the recent identification of three sub-types of depression?

Rates of depression and anxiety among young people and teenagers have increased by 70% over the past twenty-five years. As of recent, there has been speculation and poor understanding as to what causes depression and for some, it has been found that medicines do not help, even when trying different treatments or increasing the dosage volume. However, recent research undertaken at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) as well as the Hiroshima University may enable a greater comprehension of how and why depression occurs. 

The scientists of the Hiroshima University and of the neural computational unit of OIST have identified three sub-types of depression following the study of 134 individuals. These sub-types were defined by two main characteristics: functional connectivity patterns correlating between fields of the brain as well as the individual’s childhood trauma experiences.

“It was found that the major control factor in the determination of the effective of SSRIs in treating depression is the angular gyrus”

One of the sub-types of depression was found to be unresponsive to intake of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are a commonly used anti-depressive drug and work by stimulating the release of serotonin within the brain. It was found that the major control factor in the determination of the effects of SSRIs in treating depression is the angular gyrus – a region of the brain related to language and numbers; spatial cognition and attention.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was used on all of the 134 patients and used to contrast and compare 78 regions of the brain. It prevailed that those with noticeable increased functional connectivity had also experienced childhood trauma and had a sub-class of depression which was found to be unresponsive and thus untreatable via SSRIs. The other two sub-classes of depression were found to have decreased connectivity in the MRIs and fewer signs of stress as a result of childhood trauma. These patients’ SSRIs were found to work positively and resulted in a response.

“It is a major step in identifying the differences between different people in suffering in depression”

However, the significance of this study is more than just as to whether the specific SSRIs drugs works. It is a major step in identifying the differences between different people in suffering in depression, as a result of the three different sub-types, and that as a result of this discovery, these three sub-types should be treated and evaluated in a separate manner. This provides a stepping stone for the future treatment of depression as each sub-type can be looked at on an individual basis to determine if a drug is responded to positively or not by the specific sub-class.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression or feel you need help please do access the University of Nottingham counselling service (+44 (0)115 951 3695) or talk to a friend/family member about it. The more we talk about depression the more we can work around helping those with it.

Inga Becker Hansen

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