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Scientists discover physical source of depression

By
Ryan Maass
Depression has been identified as a change in connection patterns in two key areas of the brain. Photo by KieferPix/Shutterstock
Depression has been identified as a change in connection patterns in two key areas of the brain. Photo by KieferPix/Shutterstock

COVENTRY, England, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- An international research team says they have identified the physical source of depression in the brain in a new study.

Investigators traced depression, one of the most common mental ailments in the world, to the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for a non-reward mechanism. According to the research team, this is likely the reason people living with depression often feel a sense of loss, disappointment and low self-esteem.

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In addition to the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, researchers also linked depression to the medial orbitofrontal cortex and memory systems, which they say explains why individuals with depression have difficulty accounting for happy memories.

The research team was comprised of investigators from the University of Warwick in England and Fudan University in China. Their findings were published in the journal Brain.

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"More than one in ten people in their life time suffer from depression, a disease which is so common in modern society and we can even find the remains of Prozac (a depression drug) in the tap water in London," professor Jianfeng Feng said in a press release.

During the study, the team analyzed brain scans for almost 1,000 people in China using high-precision MRI. By using this technique, they were able to observe changes in the connections between the medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortex. The authors say finding the physical root of depression will help develop more advanced treatments.

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"Our finding, with the combination of big data we collected around the world and our novel methods, enables us to locate the roots of depression which should open up new avenues for better therapeutic treatments in the near future for this horrible disease," Feng added.

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