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October 15, 2004

Depression different for Kids

The Wall Street Journal reported today that an increasing number of depression research studies are suggesting that depression in young people isn't simply a "scaled-down version of depression in adults. The symptoms and the responses to antidepressants are different, indicating different biological activity. Teen brains, scientists are finding, are very different than adult brains."

Rather than feeling deeply and chronically unhappy, teens diagnosed with depression feel bored, moody and irritable.

""It isn't the consistently down, sad, depressed feeling that adults have," says Carol Glod of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., who is leading brain-imaging studies of depression in young people." a quote in the WSJ noted.

When it comes to the biological underpinnings of depression in young people and adults, "the differences far outnumber the similarities," says Robert A. King of the Yale University Child Study Center. "We don't even know if depression that begins in childhood is the same disease as adult-onset depression."

Recent studies suggest that the antidepressants called SSRIs stimulate the birth of new neurons in the brain. Boosting this "neurogenesis" might have different effects on a developing brain than a mature one.

"But in young people with depression, it may be that the influx of new neurons is somehow detrimental to adolescents. Some scientists wonder whether the new neurons could destabilize fragile brain circuits in kids suffering from mental illness."

It sounds like we're a long way from truly understanding depression in children - and much more research needs to be done.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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