Abnormalities in brain circuitry as a cause of depression

As a highly variable and debilitating disease, major depressive disorder (MDD) can be notoriously difficult to treat. Many of the difficulties associated with establishing an effective treatment program for those affected by MDD stem from a lack of understanding of the underlying biology of the disorder. The biological basis of mood disorders is a rapidly advancing field, and there is hope that over the next few years, knowledge gained in this area will help advance clinical therapy.

Published in Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders this week, Furman et al. present findings from recent research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the brain circuitry of participants diagnosed with MDD and a control group of individuals with no history of psychiatric disorder. Based on the findings from previous work, they focus their research on frontostriatal functional connectivity. Their results suggest that there may be a link between aberrant connectivity and MDD, whereby depressed individuals display attenuated functional connectivity between the ventral striatum and both ventromedial prefrontal cortex and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex.

This study highlights the need for further research to explicitly examine links between mood disorders and connectivity, in particular with regard to specific symptoms. Studies such as this indicate that the management of mood disorders could evolve over time to focus on symptom-specific, targeted treatment, based on the biological root of the disorder.

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