Thursday, April 8, 2010

Brain differences in symptomless depressive girls

Some researchers looked at girls 10 to 14 who did not have any symptoms of depression but whose mothers had recurrent depression.
All 26 participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while completing a task involving the possibility of reward and punishment. They were first shown a target and told that if a circle appeared, they could gain points by being fast enough to hit the target. If a square appeared, they could avoid losing points by hitting the target quickly. If a triangle appeared, they could neither win nor lose points and should avoid responding. The task consisted of 100 six-second trials, each of which contained an anticipation phase and a feedback phase, during which the girls were told whether they gained or lost points. The points could be redeemed for prizes at the end of the task
The high-risk group displayed diminished neural responses during both anticipation and receipt of the reward when compared with the low-risk group. Specifically, they did not show any activation in a brain area known as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which appears to be involved in reinforcing past experiences to facilitate learning. However, compared with low-risk girls, high-risk girls showed an increased activation in this area when receiving punishment. This suggests they may more easily integrate information about loss and punishment than reward and pleasure over time.
It's all in the brain. You have to wonder if all these girls will suffer real depression later, if they are biologically fated for it, or if it takes some environmental trigger, such as loss of a loved one, to bring it on.

If it were ever the case that fMRIs machines were cheap and everywhere, one could routinely screen kids at birth. It could become part of the APGAR score, and then at intervals we could check for signals that an intervention might be needed, before symptoms arise, and not just for depression. fMRI indicators are likely to be found for all sorts of mental problems.

I just hope that, in the midst of all the medical promise, the government doesn't get some idea of how to use it in interrogations, or corporations don't start using it as a personnel screening device. Actually, "hope" is a little strong. It should be "wish," because any technology that is useful to corporations or law enforcement  if abused, will be abused.

No comments:

Post a Comment