02 March 2016

Specific brain areas found to be linked to depression

Damage in specific brain structures has been found to be associated with a greater risk of depressive symptoms in late life according to research from the University of Aberdeen.

Data gathered from the Aberdeen Birth Cohort of 1936, was used to find how depressive symptoms are linked with localised brain damage and if intelligence and physical fitness have an effect on the presentation of depressive symptoms.

Professor of Radiology, Alison Murray used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and complex statistical modelling to find the link between areas of brain damage, intelligence, physical fitness and depressive symptoms in a study published in Archives of Gerentology and Geriatrics. 

The MRI scans were used to identify the location of brain lesions – areas of brain damage, usually indicative of blood vessel disease in the brain - and it was found that if the lesions were found in deep brain structures, the individual affected was more likely to have depressive symptoms than if the damage was anywhere else.    

However, it was found that higher levels of intelligence and better physical fitness reduced the risk of depressive symptoms even in people with deep brain lesions. 

Professor Murray said: “Our results confirmed previous findings that lesions predict depressive symptoms, but we went a step further to show that the presentation of depressive symptoms depends on where the lesions are in the brain.

“This is the first study that has determined what symptoms people are likely to experience depending on where lesions are. 

...we found that people with higher intelligence and better physical health are protected from the depressive symptoms associated with these lesions." Professor Alison Murray

“We found that if the lesions involve deep structures in the brain they are more likely to be associated with depressive symptoms. Whereas, if they are in the brain stem and cerebellum, people are more likely to be physically impaired.

“In addition to this, we found that people with higher intelligence and better physical health are protected from the depressive symptoms associated with these lesions.  This supports the whole concept that exercise is good for brain and mood and can reduce depressive symptoms.

“In terms of practical applications, this research means that in the future, we can use this information to identify and those at greater risk of depressive symptoms and in doing so target appropriate people to treat. “

“We are extremely grateful to Aberdeen birth cohort participants for giving up their time to help us understand major health problems like depression.




Notes for Editors

About Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics 

Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics publishes peer-reviewed research from the fields of experimental gerontology and clinical and social geriatrics. The principal aim of the journal is to facilitate the exchange of information between specialists in these three fields of gerontological research. Experimental papers cover subjects including the basic mechanisms of aging at molecular, cellular, tissue or organ levels. Clinical papers which provide sufficiently new information or are of fundamental importance for the knowledge of human aging are also considered along with anti-aging pharmacological preparations in humans.  Papers on Social aspects of geriatrics regarding the epidemiology of aging and the efficiency and working methods of the social organizations for the health care of the elderly are also considered.


About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirectScopusElsevier Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey— and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 33,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group plc, a world-leading provider of information solutions for professional customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

Issued by the Communications Team
Directorate of External Relations, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen
Tel: +44 (0)1224 272014

Contact: Wendy Skene
Issued on: 02 March 2016


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