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Bullying in Late Adolescence and Depression Risk

Behav Brain Res; ePub 2019 Jan 30; Graziano, et al

Bullying in late adolescence is uniquely related to abnormal brain microstructure among individuals with current diagnoses of depression, possibly due to an overactive fear response, according to a recent study. Researchers examined fractional anisotropy (FA) in multiple white matter tracts in 186 adults (93 males, 93 females) with a current diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD), including 88 who reported a history of bullying before age 18 (43 males; 45 females). All patients were antidepressant medication-free at the time of testing. They found:

  • After adjusting for demographics and other early life stress (ELS) subtypes, participants with a history of bullying exhibited increased FA in the right medial lemniscus and left posterior corona radiata compared to participants with depression but no self-reported history of bullying.
  • Both groups endorsed similar levels of depression.
  • Group differences were most pronounced among individuals who endorsed bullying in late adolescence (aged 14-17 years).

Graziano RC, Bruce SE, Paul RH, Korgaonkar MS, Williams LM. The effects of bullying in depression on white matter integrity. [Published online ahead of print January 30, 2019]. Behav Brain Res. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2019.01.054.