There is a link between depression early in childhood and the course of cortical gray matter development in late childhood and early adolescence, according to a longitudinal behavioral and neuroimaging study involving 193 children. Participants ranged in age from 3 to 6 years and were followed for up to 11 years. Investigators analyzed volume, thickness, and surface area of cortical gray matter via MRI. 116 participants had 3 full waves of scans.
Among the results:
• 90 had a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
• There were marked alterations in cortical gray matter volume loss and thinning, which was linked with experiencing an episode of major depressive disorder before the first scan.
• Conversely, there was no significant link between development of gray matter and family history of depression or traumatic/stressful life events.
Citation: Luby J, Belden A, Jackson J, et al. Early childhood depression and alterations in the trajectory of gray matter maturation in middle childhood and early adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(1):31-38.